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Title: Creative Unity
Author: Tagore, Rabindranath, 1861-1941
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            CREATIVE UNITY

                                  BY

                          RABINDRANATH TAGORE

                      MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
                      ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON
                                 1922

                      MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

                  LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA · MADRAS
                               MELBOURNE

                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

                      NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO
                        DALLAS · SAN FRANCISCO

                   THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

                                TORONTO

                               COPYRIGHT

                       PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN



                                  TO
                          DR. EDWIN H. LEWIS



                             INTRODUCTION


It costs me nothing to feel that I am; it is no burden to me. And yet
if the mental, physical, chemical, and other innumerable facts
concerning all branches of knowledge which have united in myself could
be broken up, they would prove endless. It is some untold mystery of
unity in me, that has the simplicity of the infinite and reduces the
immense mass of multitude to a single point.

This One in me knows the universe of the many. But, in whatever it
knows, it knows the One in different aspects. It knows this room only
because this room is One to it, in spite of the seeming contradiction
of the endless facts contained in the single fact of the room. Its
knowledge of a tree is the knowledge of a unity, which appears in the
aspect of a tree.

This One in me is creative. Its creations are a pastime, through which
it gives expression to an ideal of unity in its endless show of
variety. Such are its pictures, poems, music, in which it finds joy
only because they reveal the perfect forms of an inherent unity.

This One in me not only seeks unity in knowledge for its understanding
and creates images of unity for its delight; it also seeks union in
love for its fulfilment. It seeks itself in others. This is a fact,
which would be absurd had there been no great medium of truth to give
it reality. In love we find a joy which is ultimate because it is the
ultimate truth. Therefore it is said in the Upanishads that the
_advaitam_ is _anantam_,—"the One is Infinite"; that the _advaitam_
is _anandam_,—"the One is Love."

To give perfect expression to the One, the Infinite, through the
harmony of the many; to the One, the Love, through the sacrifice of
self, is the object alike of our individual life and our society.



                               CONTENTS


                                        PAGE

INTRODUCTION                              v

THE POET'S RELIGION                       3

THE CREATIVE IDEAL                       31

THE RELIGION OF THE FOREST               45

AN INDIAN FOLK RELIGION                  69

EAST AND WEST                            93

THE MODERN AGE                          115

THE SPIRIT OF FREEDOM                   133

THE NATION                              143

WOMAN AND HOME                          157

AN EASTERN UNIVERSITY                   169



                          THE POET'S RELIGION

                                   I


Civility is beauty of behaviour. It requires for its perfection
patience, self-control, and an environment of leisure. For genuine
courtesy is a creation, like pictures, like music. It is a harmonious
blending of voice, gesture and movement, words and action, in which
generosity of conduct is expressed. It reveals the man himself and has
no ulterior purpose.

Our needs are always in a hurry. They rush and hustle, they are rude
and unceremonious; they have no surplus of leisure, no patience for
anything else but fulfilment of purpose. We frequently see in our
country at the present day men utilising empty kerosene cans for
carrying water. These cans are emblems of discourtesy; they are curt
and abrupt, they have not the least shame for their unmannerliness,
they do not care to be ever so slightly more than useful.

The instruments of our necessity assert that we must have food,
shelter, clothes, comforts and convenience. And yet men spend an
immense amount of their time and resources in contradicting this
assertion, to prove that they are not a mere living catalogue of
endless wants; that there is in them an ideal of perfection, a sense
of unity, which is a harmony between parts and a harmony with
surroundings.

The quality of the infinite is not the magnitude of extension, it is
in the _Advaitam_, the mystery of Unity. Facts occupy endless time and
space; but the truth comprehending them all has no dimension; it is
One. Wherever our heart touches the One, in the small or the big, it
finds the touch of the infinite.

I was speaking to some one of the joy we have in our personality. I
said it was because we were made conscious by it of a spirit of unity
within ourselves. He answered that he had no such feeling of joy about
himself, but I was sure he exaggerated. In all probability he had been
suffering from some break of harmony between his surroundings and the
spirit of unity within him, proving all the more strongly its truth.
The meaning of health comes home to us with painful force when disease
disturbs it; since health expresses the unity of the vital functions
and is accordingly joyful. Life's tragedies occur, not to demonstrate
their own reality, but to reveal that eternal principle of joy in
life, to which they gave a rude shaking. It is the object of this
Oneness in us to realise its infinity by perfect union of love with
others. All obstacles to this union create misery, giving rise to the
baser passions that are expressions of finitude, of that separateness
which is negative and therefore _máyá_.

The joy of unity within ourselves, seeking expression, becomes
creative; whereas our desire for the fulfilment of our needs is
constructive. The water vessel, taken as a vessel only, raises the
question, "Why does it exist at all?" Through its fitness of
construction, it offers the apology for its existence. But where it is
a work of beauty it has no question to answer; it has nothing to do,
but to be. It reveals in its form a unity to which all that seems
various in it is so related that, in a mysterious manner, it strikes
sympathetic chords to the music of unity in our own being.

What is the truth of this world? It is not in the masses of substance,
not in the number of things, but in their relatedness, which neither
can be counted, nor measured, nor abstracted. It is not in the
materials which are many, but in the expression which is one. All our
knowledge of things is knowing them in their relation to the Universe,
in that relation which is truth. A drop of water is not a particular
assortment of elements; it is the miracle of a harmonious mutuality,
in which the two reveal the One. No amount of analysis can reveal to
us this mystery of unity. Matter is an abstraction; we shall never be
able to realise what it is, for our world of reality does not
acknowledge it. Even the giant forces of the world, centripetal and
centrifugal, are kept out of our recognition. They are the
day-labourers not admitted into the audience-hall of creation. But
light and sound come to us in their gay dresses as troubadours singing
serenades before the windows of the senses. What is constantly before
us, claiming our attention, is not the kitchen, but the feast; not the
anatomy of the world, but its countenance. There is the dancing ring
of seasons; the elusive play of lights and shadows, of wind and water;
the many-coloured wings of erratic life flitting between birth and
death. The importance of these does not lie in their existence as mere
facts, but in their language of harmony, the mother-tongue of our own
soul, through which they are communicated to us.

We grow out of touch with this great truth, we forget to accept its
invitation and its hospitality, when in quest of external success our
works become unspiritual and unexpressive. This is what Wordsworth
complained of when he said:

    The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
    Little we see in Nature that is ours.

But it is not because the world has grown too familiar to us; on the
contrary, it is because we do not see it in its aspect of unity,
because we are driven to distraction by our pursuit of the
fragmentary.

Materials as materials are savage; they are solitary; they are ready
to hurt one another. They are like our individual impulses seeking the
unlimited freedom of wilfulness. Left to themselves they are
destructive. But directly an ideal of unity raises its banner in their
centre, it brings these rebellious forces under its sway and creation
is revealed—the creation which is peace, which is the unity of
perfect relationship. Our greed for eating is in itself ugly and
selfish, it has no sense of decorum; but when brought under the ideal
of social fellowship, it is regulated and made ornamental; it is
changed into a daily festivity of life. In human nature sexual passion
is fiercely individual and destructive, but dominated by the ideal of
love, it has been made to flower into a perfection of beauty, becoming
in its best expression symbolical of the spiritual truth in man which
is his kinship of love with the Infinite. Thus we find it is the One
which expresses itself in creation; and the Many, by giving up
opposition, make the revelation of unity perfect.


                                  II

I remember, when I was a child, that a row of cocoanut trees by our
garden wall, with their branches beckoning the rising sun on the
horizon, gave me a companionship as living as I was myself. I know it
was my imagination which transmuted the world around me into my own
world—the imagination which seeks unity, which deals with it. But we
have to consider that this companionship was true; that the universe
in which I was born had in it an element profoundly akin to my own
imaginative mind, one which wakens in all children's natures the
Creator, whose pleasure is in interweaving the web of creation with
His own patterns of many-coloured strands. It is something akin to us,
and therefore harmonious to our imagination. When we find some strings
vibrating in unison with others, we know that this sympathy carries in
it an eternal reality. The fact that the world stirs our imagination
in sympathy tells us that this creative imagination is a common truth
both in us and in the heart of existence. Wordsworth says:

                              I'd rather be
    A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
    Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

In this passage the poet says we are less forlorn in a world which we
meet with our imagination. That can only be possible if through our
imagination is revealed, behind all appearances, the reality which
gives the touch of companionship, that is to say, something which has
an affinity to us. An immense amount of our activity is engaged in
making images, not for serving any useful purpose or formulating
rational propositions, but for giving varied responses to the varied
touches of this reality. In this image-making the child creates his
own world in answer to the world in which he finds himself. The child
in us finds glimpses of his eternal playmate from behind the veil of
things, as Proteus rising from the sea, or Triton blowing his wreathèd
horn. And the playmate is the Reality, that makes it possible for the
child to find delight in activities which do not inform or bring
assistance but merely express. There is an image-making joy in the
infinite, which inspires in us our joy in imagining. The rhythm of
cosmic motion produces in our mind the emotion which is creative.

A poet has said about his destiny as a dreamer, about the
worthlessness of his dreams and yet their permanence:

    I hang 'mid men my heedless head,
    And my fruit is dreams, as theirs is bread:
    The goodly men and the sun-hazed sleeper,
    Time shall reap; but after the reaper
    The world shall glean to me, me the sleeper.

The dream persists; it is more real than even bread which has
substance and use. The painted canvas is durable and substantial; it
has for its production and transport to market a whole array of
machines and factories. But the picture which no factory can produce
is a dream, a _máyá_, and yet it, not the canvas, has the meaning of
ultimate reality.

A poet describes Autumn:

    I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
    Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
    To silence, for no lonely bird would sing
    Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn.

Of April another poet sings:

        April, April,
    Laugh thy girlish laughter;
    Then the moment after
    Weep thy girlish tears!
    April, that mine ears
    Like a lover greetest,
    If I tell thee, sweetest,
    All my hopes and fears.

        April, April,
    Laugh thy golden laughter.
    But the moment after
    Weep thy golden tears!

This Autumn, this April,—are they nothing but phantasy?

Let us suppose that the Man from the Moon comes to the earth and
listens to some music in a gramophone. He seeks for the origin of the
delight produced in his mind. The facts before him are a cabinet made
of wood and a revolving disc producing sound; but the one thing which
is neither seen nor can be explained is the truth of the music, which
his personality must immediately acknowledge as a personal message. It
is neither in the wood, nor in the disc, nor in the sound of the
notes. If the Man from the Moon be a poet, as can reasonably be
supposed, he will write about a fairy imprisoned in that box, who sits
spinning fabrics of songs expressing her cry for a far-away magic
casement opening on the foam of some perilous sea, in a fairyland
forlorn. It will not be literally, but essentially true. The facts of
the gramophone make us aware of the laws of sound, but the music gives
us personal companionship. The bare facts about April are alternate
sunshine and showers; but the subtle blending of shadows and lights,
of murmurs and movements, in April, gives us not mere shocks of
sensation, but unity of joy as does music. Therefore when a poet sees
the vision of a girl in April, even a downright materialist is in
sympathy with him. But we know that the same individual would be
menacingly angry if the law of heredity or a geometrical problem were
described as a girl or a rose—or even as a cat or a camel. For these
intellectual abstractions have no magical touch for our lute-strings
of imagination. They are no dreams, as are the harmony of bird-songs,
rain-washed leaves glistening in the sun, and pale clouds floating in
the blue.

The ultimate truth of our personality is that we are no mere
biologists or geometricians; "we are the dreamers of dreams, we are
the music-makers." This dreaming or music-making is not a function of
the lotus-eaters, it is the creative impulse which makes songs not
only with words and tunes, lines and colours, but with stones and
metals, with ideas and men:

    With wonderful deathless ditties
    We build up the world's great cities,
    And out of a fabulous story
    We fashion an empire's glory.

I have been told by a scholar friend of mine that by constant practice
in logic he has weakened his natural instinct of faith. The reason is,
faith is the spectator in us which finds the meaning of the drama from
the unity of the performance; but logic lures us into the greenroom
where there is stagecraft but no drama at all; and then this logic
nods its head and wearily talks about disillusionment. But the
greenroom, dealing with its fragments, looks foolish when questioned,
or wears the sneering smile of Mephistopheles; for it does not have
the secret of unity, which is somewhere else. It is for faith to
answer, "Unity comes to us from the One, and the One in ourselves
opens the door and receives it with joy." The function of poetry and
the arts is to remind us that the greenroom is the greyest of
illusions, and the reality is the drama presented before us, all its
paint and tinsel, masks and pageantry, made one in art. The ropes and
wheels perish, the stage is changed; but the dream which is drama
remains true, for there remains the eternal Dreamer.


                                  III

Poetry and the arts cherish in them the profound faith of man in the
unity of his being with all existence, the final truth of which is the
truth of personality. It is a religion directly apprehended, and not a
system of metaphysics to be analysed and argued. We know in our
personal experience what our creations are and we instinctively know
through it what creation around us means.

When Keats said in his "Ode to a Grecian Urn":

    Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought,
    As doth eternity,...

he felt the ineffable which is in all forms of perfection, the mystery
of the One, which takes us beyond all thought into the immediate
touch of the Infinite. This is the mystery which is for a poet to
realise and to reveal. It comes out in Keats' poems with struggling
gleams through consciousness of suffering and despair:

    Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
    Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
    Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darken'd ways
    Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
    Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
    From our dark spirits.

In this there is a suggestion that truth reveals itself in beauty. For
if beauty were mere accident, a rent in the eternal fabric of things,
then it would hurt, would be defeated by the antagonism of facts.
Beauty is no phantasy, it has the everlasting meaning of reality. The
facts that cause despondence and gloom are mere mist, and when through
the mist beauty breaks out in momentary gleams, we realise that Peace
is true and not conflict, Love is true and not hatred; and Truth is
the One, not the disjointed multitude. We realise that Creation is the
perpetual harmony between the infinite ideal of perfection and the
eternal continuity of its realisation; that so long as there is no
absolute separation between the positive ideal and the material
obstacle to its attainment, we need not be afraid of suffering and
loss. This is the poet's religion.

Those who are habituated to the rigid framework of sectarian creeds
will find such a religion as this too indefinite and elastic. No doubt
it is so, but only because its ambition is not to shackle the Infinite
and tame it for domestic use; but rather to help our consciousness to
emancipate itself from materialism. It is as indefinite as the
morning, and yet as luminous; it calls our thoughts, feelings, and
actions into freedom, and feeds them with light. In the poet's
religion we find no doctrine or injunction, but rather the attitude of
our entire being towards a truth which is ever to be revealed in its
own endless creation.

In dogmatic religion all questions are definitely answered, all doubts
are finally laid to rest. But the poet's religion is fluid, like the
atmosphere round the earth where lights and shadows play
hide-and-seek, and the wind like a shepherd boy plays upon its reeds
among flocks of clouds. It never undertakes to lead anybody anywhere
to any solid conclusion; yet it reveals endless spheres of light,
because it has no walls round itself. It acknowledges the facts of
evil; it openly admits "the weariness, the fever and the fret" in the
world "where men sit and hear each other groan"; yet it remembers that
in spite of all there is the song of the nightingale, and "haply the
Queen Moon is on her throne," and there is:

    White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine,
    Fast-fading violets covered up in leaves;
            And mid-day's eldest child,
    The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
    The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

But all this has not the definiteness of an answer; it has only the
music that teases us out of thought as it fills our being.

Let me read a translation from an Eastern poet to show how this idea
comes out in a poem in Bengali:

        In the morning I awoke at the flutter of thy boat-sails,
    Lady of my Voyage, and I left the shore to follow the beckoning waves.
        I asked thee, "Does the dream-harvest ripen in the
            island beyond the blue?"
        The silence of thy smile fell on my question like
            the silence of sunlight on waves.
        The day passed on through storm and through calm,
    The perplexed winds changed their course, time after time,
            and the sea moaned.
        I asked thee, "Does thy sleep-tower stand somewhere beyond the
            dying embers of the day's funeral pyre?"
    No answer came from thee, only thine eyes smiled like
            the edge of a sunset cloud.
        It is night. Thy figure grows dim in the dark.
    Thy wind-blown hair flits on my cheek and thrills my
            sadness with its scent.
        My hands grope to touch the hem of thy robe, and
    I ask thee—"Is there thy garden of death beyond the stars,
            Lady of my Voyage, where thy silence blossoms into songs?"
        Thy smile shines in the heart of the hush like the
            star-mist of midnight.


                                  IV

In Shelley we clearly see the growth of his religion through periods
of vagueness and doubt, struggle and searching. But he did at length
come to a positive utterance of his faith, though he died young. Its
final expression is in his "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty." By the title
of the poem the poet evidently means a beauty that is not merely a
passive quality of particular things, but a spirit that manifests
itself through the apparent antagonism of the unintellectual life.
This hymn rang out of his heart when he came to the end of his
pilgrimage and stood face to face with the Divinity, glimpses of which
had already filled his soul with restlessness. All his experiences of
beauty had ever teased him with the question as to what was its truth.
Somewhere he sings of a nosegay which he makes of violets, daisies,
tender bluebells and—

                That tall flower that wets,
    Like a child, half in tenderness and mirth,
    Its mother's face with heaven-collected tears.

He ends by saying:

                  And then, elate and gay,
    I hastened to the spot whence I had come,
    That I might there present it!—Oh! to whom?

This question, even though not answered, carries a significance. A
creation of beauty suggests a fulfilment, which is the fulfilment of
love. We have heard some poets scoff at it in bitterness and despair;
but it is like a sick child beating its own mother—it is a sickness
of faith, which hurts truth, but proves it by its very pain and anger.
And the faith itself is this, that beauty is the self-offering of the
One to the other One.

In the first part of his "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" Shelley dwells
on the inconstancy and evanescence of the manifestation of beauty,
which imparts to it an appearance of frailty and unreality:

    Like hues and harmonies of evening,
        Like clouds in starlight widely spread,
        Like memory of music fled.

This, he says, rouses in our mind the question:

    Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,
        Why fear and dream and death and birth
        Cast on the daylight of this earth
        Such gloom,—why man has such a scope
    For love and hate, despondency and hope?

The poet's own answer to this question is:

        Man were immortal, and omnipotent,
    Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,
    Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.

This very elusiveness of beauty suggests the vision of immortality and
of omnipotence, and stimulates the effort in man to realise it in some
idea of permanence. The highest reality has actively to be achieved.
The gain of truth is not in the end; it reveals itself through the
endless length of achievement. But what is there to guide us in our
voyage of realisation? Men have ever been struggling for direction:

    Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven
    Remain the records of their vain endeavour,
    Frail spells,—whose uttered charm might not avail to sever,
    From all we hear and all we see,
    Doubt, chance and mutability.

The prevalent rites and practices of piety, according to this poet,
are like magic spells—they only prove men's desperate endeavour and
not their success. He knows that the end we seek has its own direct
call to us, its own light to guide us to itself. And truth's call is
the call of beauty. Of this he says:

    Thy light alone,—like mist o'er mountain driven,
          Or music by the night wind sent,
    Thro' strings of some still instrument,
          Or moonlight on a midnight stream
    Gives grace and truth to life's unquiet dream.

About this revelation of truth which calls us on, and yet which is
everywhere, a village singer of Bengal sings:

    My master's flute sounds in everything,
        drawing me out of my house to everywhere.
    While I listen to it I know that every step I take
        is in my master's house.
    For he is the sea, he is the river that leads to the sea,
        and he is the landing place.

Religion, in Shelley, grew with his life; it was not given to him in
fixed and ready-made doctrines; he rebelled against them. He had the
creative mind which could only approach Truth through its joy in
creative effort. For true creation is realisation of truth through the
translation of it into our own symbols.


                                   V

For man, the best opportunity for such a realisation has been in men's
Society. It is a collective creation of his, through which his social
being tries to find itself in its truth and beauty. Had that Society
merely manifested its usefulness, it would be inarticulate like a dark
star. But, unless it degenerates, it ever suggests in its concerted
movements a living truth as its soul, which has personality. In this
large life of social communion man feels the mystery of Unity, as he
does in music. From the sense of that Unity, men came to the sense of
their God. And therefore every religion began with its tribal God.

The one question before all others that has to be answered by our
civilisations is not what they have and in what quantity, but what
they express and how. In a society, the production and circulation of
materials, the amassing and spending of money, may go on, as in the
interminable prolonging of a straight line, if its people forget to
follow some spiritual design of life which curbs them and transforms
them into an organic whole. For growth is not that enlargement which
is merely adding to the dimensions of incompleteness. Growth is the
movement of a whole towards a yet fuller wholeness. Living things
start with this wholeness from the beginning of their career. A child
has its own perfection as a child; it would be ugly if it appeared as
an unfinished man. Life is a continual process of synthesis, and not
of additions. Our activities of production and enjoyment of wealth
attain that spirit of wholeness when they are blended with a creative
ideal. Otherwise they have the insane aspect of the eternally
unfinished; they become like locomotive engines which have railway
lines but no stations; which rush on towards a collision of
uncontrolled forces or to a sudden breakdown of the overstrained
machinery.

Through creation man expresses his truth; through that expression he
gains back his truth in its fulness. Human society is for the best
expression of man, and that expression, according to its perfection,
leads him to the full realisation of the divine in humanity. When that
expression is obscure, then his faith in the Infinite that is within
him becomes weak; then his aspiration cannot go beyond the idea of
success. His faith in the Infinite is creative; his desire for success
is constructive; one is his home, and the other is his office. With
the overwhelming growth of necessity, civilisation becomes a gigantic
office to which the home is a mere appendix. The predominance of the
pursuit of success gives to society the character of what we call
_Shudra_ in India. In fighting a battle, the _Kshatriya_, the noble
knight, followed his honour for his ideal, which was greater than
victory itself; but the mercenary _Shudra_ has success for his object.
The name Shudra symbolises a man who has no margin round him beyond
his bare utility. The word denotes a classification which includes all
naked machines that have lost their completeness of humanity, be their
work manual or intellectual. They are like walking stomachs or brains,
and we feel, in pity, urged to call on God and cry, "Cover them up for
mercy's sake with some veil of beauty and life!"

When Shelley in his view of the world realised the Spirit of Beauty,
which is the vision of the Infinite, he thus uttered his faith:

          Never joy illumed my brow
    Unlinked with hope that thou wouldst free
          This world from its dark slavery;
          That thou,—O awful Loveliness,—
    Wouldst give whate'er these words cannot express.

This was his faith in the Infinite. It led his aspiration towards the
region of freedom and perfection which was beyond the immediate and
above the successful. This faith in God, this faith in the reality of
the ideal of perfection, has built up all that is great in the human
world. To keep indefinitely walking on, along a zigzag course of
change, is negative and barren. A mere procession of notes does not
make music; it is only when we have in the heart of the march of
sounds some musical idea that it creates song. Our faith in the
infinite reality of Perfection is that musical idea, and there is that
one great creative force in our civilisation. When it wakens not, then
our faith in money, in material power, takes its place; it fights and
destroys, and in a brilliant fireworks of star-mimicry suddenly
exhausts itself and dies in ashes and smoke.


                                  VI

Men of great faith have always called us to wake up to great
expectations, and the prudent have always laughed at them and said
that these did not belong to reality. But the poet in man knows that
reality is a creation, and human reality has to be called forth from
its obscure depth by man's faith which is creative. There was a day
when the human reality was the brutal reality. That was the only
capital we had with which to begin our career. But age after age
there has come to us the call of faith, which said against all the
evidence of fact: "You are more than you appear to be, more than your
circumstances seem to warrant. You are to attain the impossible, you
are immortal." The unbelievers had laughed and tried to kill the
faith. But faith grew stronger with the strength of martyrdom and at
her bidding higher realities have been created over the strata of the
lower. Has not a new age come to-day, borne by thunder-clouds, ushered
in by a universal agony of suffering? Are we not waiting to-day for a
great call of faith, which will say to us: "Come out of your present
limitations. You are to attain the impossible, you are immortal"? The
nations who are not prepared to accept it, who have all their trust in
their present machines of system, and have no thought or space to
spare to welcome the sudden guest who comes as the messenger of
emancipation, are bound to court defeat whatever may be their present
wealth and power.

This great world, where it is a creation, an expression of the
infinite—where its morning sings of joy to the newly awakened life,
and its evening stars sing to the traveller, weary and worn, of the
triumph of life in a new birth across death,—has its call for us.
The call has ever roused the creator in man, and urged him to reveal
the truth, to reveal the Infinite in himself. It is ever claiming from
us, in our own creations, co-operation with God, reminding us of our
divine nature, which finds itself in freedom of spirit. Our society
exists to remind us, through its various voices, that the ultimate
truth in man is not in his intellect or his possessions; it is in his
illumination of mind, in his extension of sympathy across all barriers
of caste and colour; in his recognition of the world, not merely as a
storehouse of power, but as a habitation of man's spirit, with its
eternal music of beauty and its inner light of the divine
presence.



                          THE CREATIVE IDEAL


In an old Sanskrit book there is a verse which describes the essential
elements of a picture. The first in order is _Vrúpa-bhédáh_—"separateness
of forms." Forms are many, forms are different, each of them having
its limits. But if this were absolute, if all forms remained
obstinately separate, then there would be a fearful loneliness of
multitude. But the varied forms, in their very separateness, must
carry something which indicates the paradox of their ultimate unity,
otherwise there would be no creation.

So in the same verse, after the enumeration of separateness comes that
of _Pramānāni_—proportions. Proportions indicate relationship,
the principle of mutual accommodation. A leg dismembered from the body
has the fullest licence to make a caricature of itself. But, as a
member of the body, it has its responsibility to the living unity
which rules the body; it must behave properly, it must keep its
proportion. If, by some monstrous chance of physiological
profiteering, it could outgrow by yards its fellow-stalker, then we
know what a picture it would offer to the spectator and what
embarrassment to the body itself. Any attempt to overcome the law of
proportion altogether and to assert absolute separateness is
rebellion; it means either running the gauntlet of the rest, or
remaining segregated.

The same Sanskrit word _Pramānāni_, which in a book of æsthetics
means proportions, in a book of logic means the proofs by which the
truth of a proposition is ascertained. All proofs of truth are
credentials of relationship. Individual facts have to produce such
passports to show that they are not expatriated, that they are not a
break in the unity of the whole. The logical relationship present in
an intellectual proposition, and the æsthetic relationship indicated
in the proportions of a work of art, both agree in one thing. They
affirm that truth consists, not in facts, but in harmony of facts. Of
this fundamental note of reality it is that the poet has said, "Beauty
is truth, truth beauty."

Proportions, which prove relativity, form the outward language of
creative ideals. A crowd of men is desultory, but in a march of
soldiers every man keeps his proportion of time and space and relative
movement, which makes him one with the whole vast army. But this is
not all. The creation of an army has, for its inner principle, one
single idea of the General. According to the nature of that ruling
idea, a production is either a work of art or a mere construction. All
the materials and regulations of a joint-stock company have the unity
of an inner motive. But the expression of this unity itself is not the
end; it ever indicates an ulterior purpose. On the other hand, the
revelation of a work of art is a fulfilment in itself.

The consciousness of personality, which is the consciousness of unity
in ourselves, becomes prominently distinct when coloured by joy or
sorrow, or some other emotion. It is like the sky, which is visible
because it is blue, and which takes different aspect with the change
of colours. In the creation of art, therefore, the energy of an
emotional ideal is necessary; as its unity is not like that of a
crystal, passive and inert, but actively expressive. Take, for
example, the following verse:

    Oh, fly not Pleasure, pleasant-hearted Pleasure,
    Fold me thy wings, I prithee, yet and stay.
        For my heart no measure
        Knows, nor other treasure
    To buy a garland for my love to-day.

    And thou too, Sorrow, tender-hearted Sorrow,
    Thou grey-eyed mourner, fly not yet away.
        For I fain would borrow
        Thy sad weeds to-morrow,
    To make a mourning for love's yesterday.

The words in this quotation, merely showing the metre, would have no
appeal to us; with all its perfection and its proportion, rhyme and
cadence, it would only be a construction. But when it is the outer
body of an inner idea it assumes a personality. The idea flows through
the rhythm, permeates the words and throbs in their rise and fall. On
the other hand, the mere idea of the above-quoted poem, stated in
unrhythmic prose, would represent only a fact, inertly static, which
would not bear repetition. But the emotional idea, incarnated in a
rhythmic form, acquires the dynamic quality needed for those things
which take part in the world's eternal pageantry.

Take the following doggerel:

    Thirty days hath September,
    April, June, and November.

The metre is there, and it simulates the movement of life. But it
finds no synchronous response in the metre of our heart-beats; it has
not in its centre the living idea which creates for itself an
indivisible unity. It is like a bag which is convenient, and not like
a body which is inevitable.

This truth, implicit in our own works of art, gives us the clue to the
mystery of creation. We find that the endless rhythms of the world are
not merely constructive; they strike our own heart-strings and produce
music.

Therefore it is we feel that this world is a creation; that in its
centre there is a living idea which reveals itself in an eternal
symphony, played on innumerable instruments, all keeping perfect time.
We know that this great world-verse, that runs from sky to sky, is not
made for the mere enumeration of facts—it is not "Thirty days hath
September"—it has its direct revelation in our delight. That delight
gives us the key to the truth of existence; it is personality acting
upon personalities through incessant manifestations. The solicitor
does not sing to his client, but the bridegroom sings to his bride.
And when our soul is stirred by the song, we know it claims no fees
from us; but it brings the tribute of love and a call from the
bridegroom.

It may be said that in pictorial and other arts there are some designs
that are purely decorative and apparently have no living and inner
ideal to express. But this cannot be true. These decorations carry the
emotional motive of the artist, which says: "I find joy in my
creation; it is good." All the language of joy is beauty. It is
necessary to note, however, that joy is not pleasure, and beauty not
mere prettiness. Joy is the outcome of detachment from self and lives
in freedom of spirit. Beauty is that profound expression of reality
which satisfies our hearts without any other allurements but its own
ultimate value. When in some pure moments of ecstasy we realise this
in the world around us, we see the world, not as merely existing, but
as decorated in its forms, sounds, colours and lines; we feel in our
hearts that there is One who through all things proclaims: "I have joy
in my creation."

That is why the Sanskrit verse has given us for the essential elements
of a picture, not only the manifoldness of forms and the unity of
their proportions, but also _bhávah_, the emotional idea.

It is needless to say that upon a mere expression of emotion—even the
best expression of it—no criterion of art can rest. The following
poem is described by the poet as "An earnest Suit to his unkind
Mistress":

    And wilt thou leave me thus?
    Say nay, say nay, for shame!
    To save thee from the blame
    Of all my grief and grame.
    And wilt thou leave me thus?
        Say nay! say nay!

I am sure the poet would not be offended if I expressed my doubts
about the earnestness of his appeal, or the truth of his avowed
necessity. He is responsible for the lyric and not for the sentiment,
which is mere material. The fire assumes different colours according
to the fuel used; but we do not discuss the fuel, only the flames. A
lyric is indefinably more than the sentiment expressed in it, as a
rose is more than its substance. Let us take a poem in which the
earnestness of sentiment is truer and deeper than the one I have
quoted above:

                  The sun,
    Closing his benediction,
    Sinks, and the darkening air
    Thrills with the sense of the triumphing night,—
    Night with her train of stars
    And her great gift of sleep.
        So be my passing!

    My task accomplished and the long day done,
    My wages taken, and in my heart
    Some late lark singing,
    Let me be gathered to the quiet West,
    The sundown splendid and serene,
        Death.

The sentiment expressed in this poem is a subject for a psychologist.
But for a poem the subject is completely merged in its poetry, like
carbon in a living plant which the lover of plants ignores, leaving it
for a charcoal-burner to seek.

This is why, when some storm of feeling sweeps across the country, art
is under a disadvantage. In such an atmosphere the boisterous passion
breaks through the cordon of harmony and thrusts itself forward as the
subject, which with its bulk and pressure dethrones the unity of
creation. For a similar reason most of the hymns used in churches
suffer from lack of poetry. For in them the deliberate subject,
assuming the first importance, benumbs or kills the poem. Most
patriotic poems have the same deficiency. They are like hill streams
born of sudden showers, which are more proud of their rocky beds than
of their water currents; in them the athletic and arrogant subject
takes it for granted that the poem is there to give it occasion to
display its powers. The subject is the material wealth for the sake of
which poetry should never be tempted to barter her soul, even though
the temptation should come in the name and shape of public good or
some usefulness. Between the artist and his art must be that perfect
detachment which is the pure medium of love. He must never make use of
this love except for its own perfect expression.

In everyday life our personality moves in a narrow circle of immediate
self-interest. And therefore our feelings and events, within that
short range, become prominent subjects for ourselves. In their
vehement self-assertion they ignore their unity with the All. They
rise up like obstructions and obscure their own background. But art
gives our personality the disinterested freedom of the eternal, there
to find it in its true perspective. To see our own home in flames is
not to see fire in its verity. But the fire in the stars is the fire
in the heart of the Infinite; there, it is the script of creation.

Matthew Arnold, in his poem addressed to a nightingale, sings:

    Hark! ah, the nightingale—
    The tawny-throated!
    Hark, from that moonlit cedar what a burst!
    What triumph! hark!—what pain!

But pain, when met within the boundaries of limited reality, repels
and hurts; it is discordant with the narrow scope of life. But the
pain of some great martyrdom has the detachment of eternity. It
appears in all its majesty, harmonious in the context of everlasting
life; like the thunder-flash in the stormy sky, not on the laboratory
wire. Pain on that scale has its harmony in great love; for by hurting
love it reveals the infinity of love in all its truth and beauty. On
the other hand, the pain involved in business insolvency is
discordant; it kills and consumes till nothing remains but ashes.

The poet sings again:

    How thick the bursts come crowding through the leaves!
    Eternal Passion!
    Eternal Pain!

And the truth of pain in eternity has been sung by those Vedic poets
who had said, "From joy has come forth all creation." They say:

    Sa tapas tapatvá sarvam asrajata Yadidam kincha.

    (God from the heat of his pain created all that there is.)

The sacrifice, which is in the heart of creation, is both joy and pain
at the same moment. Of this sings a village mystic in Bengal:

                        My eyes drown in the darkness of joy,
    My heart, like a lotus, closes its petals in the rapture of the
        dark night.

That song speaks of a joy which is deep like the blue sea, endless
like the blue sky; which has the magnificence of the night, and in its
limitless darkness enfolds the radiant worlds in the awfulness of
peace; it is the unfathomed joy in which all sufferings are made one.

A poet of mediæval India tells us about his source of inspiration in a
poem containing a question and an answer:

    Where were your songs, my bird, when you spent your nights in the nest?
    Was not all your pleasure stored therein?
    What makes you lose your heart to the sky, the sky that is limitless?

The bird answers:

    I had my pleasure while I rested within bounds.
    When I soared into the limitless, I found my songs!

To detach the individual idea from its confinement of everyday facts
and to give its soaring wings the freedom of the universal: this is
the function of poetry. The ambition of Macbeth, the jealousy of
Othello, would be at best sensational in police court proceedings; but
in Shakespeare's dramas they are carried among the flaming
constellations where creation throbs with Eternal Passion, Eternal
Pain.



                      THE RELIGION OF THE FOREST

                                   I


We stand before this great world. The truth of our life depends upon
our attitude of mind towards it—an attitude which is formed by our
habit of dealing with it according to the special circumstance of our
surroundings and our temperaments. It guides our attempts to establish
relations with the universe either by conquest or by union, either
through the cultivation of power or through that of sympathy. And
thus, in our realisation of the truth of existence, we put our
emphasis either upon the principle of dualism or upon the principle of
unity.

The Indian sages have held in the Upanishads that the emancipation of
our soul lies in its realising the ultimate truth of unity. They said:

    Ishávásyam idam sarvam yat kinch jagatyám jagat.
    Yéna tyakténa bhunjithá má graha kasyasvit dhanam.

     (Know all that moves in this moving world as enveloped by
     God; and find enjoyment through renunciation, not through
     greed of possession.)

The meaning of this is, that, when we know the multiplicity of things
as the final truth, we try to augment ourselves by the external
possession of them; but, when we know the Infinite Soul as the final
truth, then through our union with it we realise the joy of our soul.
Therefore it has been said of those who have attained their
fulfilment,—"sarvam evá vishanti" (they enter into all things). Their
perfect relation with this world is the relation of union.

This ideal of perfection preached by the forest-dwellers of ancient
India runs through the heart of our classical literature and still
dominates our mind. The legends related in our epics cluster under the
forest shade bearing all through their narrative the message of the
forest-dwellers. Our two greatest classical dramas find their
background in scenes of the forest hermitage, which are permeated by
the association of these sages.

The history of the Northmen of Europe is resonant with the music of
the sea. That sea is not merely topographical in its significance, but
represents certain ideals of life which still guide the history and
inspire the creations of that race. In the sea, nature presented
herself to those men in her aspect of a danger, a barrier which
seemed to be at constant war with the land and its children. The sea
was the challenge of untamed nature to the indomitable human soul. And
man did not flinch; he fought and won, and the spirit of fight
continued in him. This fight he still maintains; it is the fight
against disease and poverty, tyranny of matter and of man.

This refers to a people who live by the sea, and ride on it as on a
wild, champing horse, catching it by its mane and making it render
service from shore to shore. They find delight in turning by force the
antagonism of circumstances into obedience. Truth appears to them in
her aspect of dualism, the perpetual conflict of good and evil, which
has no reconciliation, which can only end in victory or defeat.

But in the level tracts of Northern India men found no barrier between
their lives and the grand life that permeates the universe. The forest
entered into a close living relationship with their work and leisure,
with their daily necessities and contemplations. They could not think
of other surroundings as separate or inimical. So the view of the
truth, which these men found, did not make manifest the difference,
but rather the unity of all things. They uttered their faith in these
words: "Yadidam kinch sarvam prâna éjati nihsratam" (All that is
vibrates with life, having come out from life). When we know this
world as alien to us, then its mechanical aspect takes prominence in
our mind; and then we set up our machines and our methods to deal with
it and make as much profit as our knowledge of its mechanism allows us
to do. This view of things does not play us false, for the machine has
its place in this world. And not only this material universe, but
human beings also, may be used as machines and made to yield powerful
results. This aspect of truth cannot be ignored; it has to be known
and mastered. Europe has done so and has reaped a rich harvest.

The view of this world which India has taken is summed up in one
compound Sanskrit word, Sachidānanda. The meaning is that Reality,
which is essentially one, has three phases. The first is Sat; it is
the simple fact that things are, the fact which relates us to all
things through the relationship of common existence. The second is
Chit; it is the fact that we know, which relates us to all things
through the relationship of knowledge. The third is Ananda: it is the
fact that we enjoy, which unites us with all things through the
relationship of love.

According to the true Indian view, our consciousness of the world,
merely as the sum total of things that exist, and as governed by laws,
is imperfect. But it is perfect when our consciousness realises all
things as spiritually one with it, and therefore capable of giving us
joy. For us the highest purpose of this world is not merely living in
it, knowing it and making use of it, but realising our own selves in
it through expansion of sympathy; not alienating ourselves from it and
dominating it, but comprehending and uniting it with ourselves in
perfect union.


                                  II

When Vikramâditya became king, Ujjayini a great capital, and Kâlidâsa
its poet, the age of India's forest retreats had passed. Then we had
taken our stand in the midst of the great concourse of humanity. The
Chinese and the Hun, the Scythian and the Persian, the Greek and the
Roman, had crowded round us. But, even in that age of pomp and
prosperity, the love and reverence with which its poet sang about the
hermitage shows what was the dominant ideal that occupied the mind of
India; what was the one current of memory that continually flowed
through her life.

In Kâlidâsa's drama, _Shakuntalâ_, the hermitage, which dominates the
play, overshadowing the king's palace, has the same idea running
through it—the recognition of the kinship of man with conscious and
unconscious creation alike.

A poet of a later age, while describing a hermitage in his Kâdambari,
tells us of the posture of salutation in the flowering lianas as they
bow to the wind; of the sacrifice offered by the trees scattering
their blossoms; of the grove resounding with the lessons chanted by
the neophytes, and the verses repeated by the parrots, learnt by constantly
hearing them; of the wild-fowl enjoying "vaishva-deva-bali-pinda"
(the food offered to the divinity which is in all creatures); of the
ducks coming up from the lake for their portion of the grass seed
spread in the cottage yards to dry; and of the deer caressing with
their tongues the young hermit boys. It is again the same story. The
hermitage shines out, in all our ancient literature, as the place
where the chasm between man and the rest of creation has been bridged.

In the Western dramas, human characters drown our attention in the
vortex of their passions. Nature occasionally peeps out, but she is
almost always a trespasser, who has to offer excuses, or bow
apologetically and depart. But in all our dramas which still retain
their fame, such as _Mrit-Shakatikâ_, _Shakuntalâ_, _Uttara-Râmacharita_,
Nature stands on her own right, proving that she has her great
function, to impart the peace of the eternal to human emotions.

The fury of passion in two of Shakespeare's youthful poems is
exhibited in conspicuous isolation. It is snatched away, naked, from
the context of the All; it has not the green earth or the blue sky
around it; it is there ready to bring to our view the raging fever
which is in man's desires, and not the balm of health and repose which
encircles it in the universe.

_Ritûsamhâra_ is clearly a work of Kâlidâsa's immaturity. The youthful
love-song in it does not reach the sublime reticence which is in
_Shakuntalâ_ and _Kumâra-Sambhava_. But the tune of these voluptuous
outbreaks is set to the varied harmony of Nature's symphony. The
moonbeams of the summer evening, resonant with the flow of fountains,
acknowledge it as a part of its own melody. In its rhythm sways the
Kadamba forest, glistening in the first cool rain of the season; and
the south breezes, carrying the scent of the mango blossoms, temper it
with their murmur.

In the third canto of _Kumâra-Sambhava_, Madana, the God Eros, enters
the forest sanctuary to set free a sudden flood of desire amid the
serenity of the ascetics' meditation. But the boisterous outbreak of
passion so caused was shown against a background of universal life.
The divine love-thrills of Sati and Shiva found their response in the
world-wide immensity of youth, in which animals and trees have their
life-throbs.

Not only its third canto but the whole of the Kumâra-Sambhava poem is
painted upon a limitless canvas. It tells of the eternal wedding of
love, its wooing and sacrifice, and its fulfilment, for which the gods
wait in suspense. Its inner idea is deep and of all time. It answers
the one question that humanity asks through all its endeavours: "How
is the birth of the hero to be brought about, the brave one who can
defy and vanquish the evil demon laying waste heaven's own kingdom?"

It becomes evident that such a problem had become acute in Kâlidâsa's
time, when the old simplicity of Hindu life had broken up. The Hindu
kings, forgetful of their duties, had become self-seeking epicureans,
and India was being repeatedly devastated by the Scythians. What
answer, then, does the poem give to the question it raises? Its
message is that the cause of weakness lies in the inner life of the
soul. It is in some break of harmony with the Good, some dissociation
from the True. In the commencement of the poem we find that the God
Shiva, the Good, had remained for long lost in the self-centred
solitude of his asceticism, detached from the world of reality. And
then Paradise was lost. But _Kumâra-Sambhava_ is the poem of Paradise
Regained. How was it regained? When Sati, the Spirit of Reality,
through humiliation, suffering, and penance, won the Heart of Shiva,
the Spirit of Goodness. And thus, from the union of the freedom of the
real with the restraint of the Good, was born the heroism that
released Paradise from the demon of Lawlessness.

Viewed from without, India, in the time of Kâlidâsa, appeared to have
reached the zenith of civilisation, excelling as she did in luxury,
literature and the arts. But from the poems of Kâlidâsa it is evident
that this very magnificence of wealth and enjoyment worked against the
ideal that sprang and flowed forth from the sacred solitude of the
forest. These poems contain the voice of warnings against the
gorgeous unreality of that age, which, like a Himalayan avalanche, was
slowly gliding down to an abyss of catastrophe. And from his seat
beside all the glories of Vikramâditya's throne the poet's heart
yearns for the purity and simplicity of India's past age of spiritual
striving. And it was this yearning which impelled him to go back to
the annals of the ancient Kings of Raghu's line for the narrative
poem, in which he traced the history of the rise and fall of the ideal
that should guide the rulers of men.

King Dilipa, with Queen Sudakshinâ, has entered upon the life of the
forest. The great monarch is busy tending the cattle of the hermitage.
Thus the poem opens, amid scenes of simplicity and self-denial. But it
ends in the palace of magnificence, in the extravagance of
self-enjoyment. With a calm restraint of language the poet tells us of
the kingly glory crowned with purity. He begins his poem as the day
begins, in the serenity of sunrise. But lavish are the colours in
which he describes the end, as of the evening, eloquent for a time
with the sumptuous splendour of sunset, but overtaken at last by the
devouring darkness which sweeps away all its brilliance into night.

In this beginning and this ending of his poem there lies hidden that
message of the forest which found its voice in the poet's words. There
runs through the narrative the idea that the future glowed gloriously
ahead only when there was in the atmosphere the calm of self-control,
of purity and renunciation. When downfall had become imminent, the
hungry fires of desire, aflame at a hundred different points, dazzled
the eyes of all beholders.

Kâlidâsa in almost all his works represented the unbounded
impetuousness of kingly splendour on the one side and the serene
strength of regulated desires on the other. Even in the minor drama of
_Mâlavikâgnimitra_ we find the same thing in a different manner. It
must never be thought that, in this play, the poet's deliberate object
was to pander to his royal patron by inviting him to a literary orgy
of lust and passion. The very introductory verse indicates the object
towards which this play is directed. The poet begins the drama with
the prayer, "Sanmârgâlókayan vyapanayatu sa nastâmasi vritimishah"
(Let God, to illumine for us the path of truth, sweep away our
passions, bred of darkness). This is the God Shiva, in whose nature
Parvati, the eternal Woman, is ever commingled in an ascetic purity of
love. The unified being of Shiva and Parvati is the perfect symbol of
the eternal in the wedded love of man and woman. When the poet opens
his drama with an invocation of this Spirit of the Divine Union it is
evident that it contains in it the message with which he greets his
kingly audience. The whole drama goes to show the ugliness of the
treachery and cruelty inherent in unchecked self-indulgence. In the
play the conflict of ideals is between the King and the Queen, between
Agnimitra and Dhârini, and the significance of the contrast lies
hidden in the very names of the hero and the heroine. Though the name
Agnimitra is historical, yet it symbolises in the poet's mind the
destructive force of uncontrolled desire—just as did the name
Agnivarna in _Raghuvamsha_. Agnimitra, "the friend of the fire," the
reckless person, who in his love-making is playing with fire, not
knowing that all the time it is scorching him black. And what a great
name is Dhârini, signifying the fortitude and forbearance that comes
from majesty of soul! What an association it carries of the infinite
dignity of love, purified by a self-abnegation that rises far above
all insult and baseness of betrayal!

In _Shakuntalâ_ this conflict of ideals has been shown, all through
the drama, by the contrast of the pompous heartlessness of the king's
court and the natural purity of the forest hermitage. The drama opens
with a hunting scene, where the king is in pursuit of an antelope. The
cruelty of the chase appears like a menace symbolising the spirit of
the king's life clashing against the spirit of the forest retreat,
which is "sharanyam sarva-bhútânâm" (where all creatures find their
protection of love). And the pleading of the forest-dwellers with the
king to spare the life of the deer, helplessly innocent and beautiful,
is the pleading that rises from the heart of the whole drama. "Never,
oh, never is the arrow meant to pierce the tender body of a deer, even
as the fire is not for the burning of flowers."

In the _Râmâyana_, Râma and his companions, in their banishment, had
to traverse forest after forest; they had to live in leaf-thatched
huts, to sleep on the bare ground. But as their hearts felt their
kinship with woodland, hill, and stream, they were not in exile amidst
these. Poets, brought up in an atmosphere of different ideals, would
have taken this opportunity of depicting in dismal colours the
hardship of the forest-life in order to bring out the martyrdom of
Râmachandra with all the emphasis of a strong contrast. But, in the
_Râmâyana_, we are led to realise the greatness of the hero, not in a
fierce struggle with Nature, but in sympathy with it. Sitâ, the
daughter-in-law of a great kingly house, goes along the forest paths.
We read:

"She asks Râma about the flowering trees, and shrubs and creepers
which she has not seen before. At her request Lakshmana gathers and
brings her plants of all kinds, exuberant with flowers, and it
delights her heart to see the forest rivers, variegated with their
streams and sandy banks, resounding with the call of heron and duck.

"When Râma first took his abode in the Chitrakuta peak, that
delightful Chitrakuta, by the Mâlyavati river, with its easy slopes
for landing, he forgot all the pain of leaving his home in the capital
at the sight of those woodlands, alive with beast and bird."

Having lived on that hill for long, Râma, who was "giri-vana-priya"
(lover of the mountain and the forest), said one day to Sitâ:

"When I look upon the beauties of this hill, the loss of my kingdom
troubles me no longer, nor does the separation from my friends cause
me any pang."

Thus passed Râmachandra's exile, now in woodland, now in hermitage.
The love which Râma and Sitâ bore to each other united them, not only
to each other, but to the universe of life. That is why, when Sitâ was
taken away, the loss seemed to be so great to the forest itself.


                                  III

Strangely enough, in Shakespeare's dramas, like those of Kâlidâsa, we
find a secret vein of complaint against the artificial life of the
king's court—the life of ungrateful treachery and falsehood. And
almost everywhere, in his dramas, foreign scenes have been introduced
in connection with some working of the life of unscrupulous ambition.
It is perfectly obvious in _Timon of Athens_—but there Nature offers
no message or balm to the injured soul of man. In _Cymbeline_ the
mountainous forest and the cave appear in their aspect of obstruction
to life's opportunities. These only seem tolerable in comparison with
the vicissitudes of fortune in the artificial court life. In _As You
Like It_ the forest of Arden is didactic in its lessons. It does not
bring peace, but preaches, when it says:

    Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
    Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
    More free from peril than the envious court?

In the _Tempest_, through Prospero's treatment of Ariel and Caliban we
realise man's struggle with Nature and his longing to sever connection
with her. In _Macbeth_, as a prelude to a bloody crime of treachery
and treason, we are introduced to a scene of barren heath where the
three witches appear as personifications of Nature's malignant forces;
and in _King Lear_ it is the fury of a father's love turned into
curses by the ingratitude born of the unnatural life of the court that
finds its symbol in the storm on the heath. The tragic intensity of
_Hamlet_ and _Othello_ is unrelieved by any touch of Nature's
eternity. Except in a passing glimpse of a moonlight night in the love
scene in the _Merchant of Venice_, Nature has not been allowed in
other dramas of this series, including _Romeo and Juliet_ and _Antony
and Cleopatra_, to contribute her own music to the music of man's
love. In _The Winter's Tale_ the cruelty of a king's suspicion stands
bare in its relentlessness, and Nature cowers before it, offering no
consolation.

I hope it is needless for me to say that these observations are not
intended to minimise Shakespeare's great power as a dramatic poet, but
to show in his works the gulf between Nature and human nature owing to
the tradition of his race and time. It cannot be said that beauty of
nature is ignored in his writings; only he fails to recognise in them
the truth of the inter-penetration of human life with the cosmic life
of the world. We observe a completely different attitude of mind in
the later English poets like Wordsworth and Shelley, which can be
attributed in the main to the great mental change in Europe, at that
particular period, through the influence of the newly discovered
philosophy of India which stirred the soul of Germany and aroused the
attention of other Western countries.

In Milton's _Paradise Lost_, the very subject—Man dwelling in the
garden of Paradise—seems to afford a special opportunity for bringing
out the true greatness of man's relationship with Nature. But though
the poet has described to us the beauties of the garden, though he has
shown to us the animals living there in amity and peace among
themselves, there is no reality of kinship between them and man. They
were created for man's enjoyment; man was their lord and master. We
find no trace of the love between the first man and woman gradually
surpassing themselves and overflowing the rest of creation, such as we
find in the love scenes in _Kumâra-Sambhava_ and _Shakuntalâ_. In the
seclusion of the bower, where the first man and woman rested in the
garden of Paradise—

                  Bird, beast, insect or worm
    Durst enter none, such was their awe of man.

Not that India denied the superiority of man, but the test of that
superiority lay, according to her, in the comprehensiveness of
sympathy, not in the aloofness of absolute distinction.


                                  IV

India holds sacred, and counts as places of pilgrimage, all spots
which display a special beauty or splendour of nature. These had no
original attraction on account of any special fitness for cultivation
or settlement. Here, man is free, not to look upon Nature as a source
of supply of his necessities, but to realise his soul beyond himself.
The Himâlayas of India are sacred and the Vindhya Hills. Her majestic
rivers are sacred. Lake Mânasa and the confluence of the Ganges and
the Jamuna are sacred. India has saturated with her love and worship
the great Nature with which her children are surrounded, whose light
fills their eyes with gladness, and whose water cleanses them, whose
food gives them life, and from whose majestic mystery comes forth the
constant revelation of the infinite in music, scent, and colour, which
brings its awakening to the soul of man. India gains the world through
worship, through spiritual communion; and the idea of freedom to which
she aspired was based upon the realisation of her spiritual unity.

When, in my recent voyage to Europe, our ship left Aden and sailed
along the sea which lay between the two continents, we passed by the
red and barren rocks of Arabia on our right side and the gleaming
sands of Egypt on our left. They seemed to me like two giant brothers
exchanging with each other burning glances of hatred, kept apart by
the tearful entreaty of the sea from whose womb they had their birth.

There was an immense stretch of silence on the left shore as well as
on the right, but the two shores spoke to me of the two different
historical dramas enacted. The civilisation which found its growth in
Egypt was continued across long centuries, elaborately rich with
sentiments and expressions of life, with pictures, sculptures,
temples, and ceremonials. This was a country whose guardian-spirit was
a noble river, which spread the festivities of life on its banks
across the heart of the land. There man never raised the barrier of
alienation between himself and the rest of the world.

On the opposite shore of the Red Sea the civilisation which grew up in
the inhospitable soil of Arabia had a contrary character to that of
Egypt. There man felt himself isolated in his hostile and bare
surroundings. His idea of God became that of a jealous God. His mind
naturally dwelt upon the principle of separateness. It roused in him
the spirit of fight, and this spirit was a force that drove him far
and wide. These two civilisations represented two fundamental
divisions of human nature. The one contained in it the spirit of
conquest and the other the spirit of harmony. And both of these have
their truth and purpose in human existence.

The characters of two eminent sages have been described in our
mythology. One was Vashishtha and another Vishvâmitra. Both of them
were great, but they represented two different types of wisdom; and
there was conflict between them. Vishvâmitra sought to achieve power
and was proud of it; Vashishtha was rudely smitten by that power. But
his hurt and his loss could not touch the illumination of his soul;
for he rose above them and could forgive. Râmachandra, the great hero
of our epic, had his initiation to the spiritual life from Vashishtha,
the life of inner peace and perfection. But he had his initiation to
war from Vishvâmitra, who called him to kill the demons and gave him
weapons that were irresistible.

Those two sages symbolise in themselves the two guiding spirits of
civilisation. Can it be true that they shall never be reconciled? If
so, can ever the age of peace and co-operation dawn upon the human
world? Creation is the harmony of contrary forces—the forces of
attraction and repulsion. When they join hands, all the fire and fight
are changed into the smile of flowers and the songs of birds. When
there is only one of them triumphant and the other defeated, then
either there is the death of cold rigidity or that of suicidal
explosion.

Humanity, for ages, has been busy with the one great creation of
spiritual life. Its best wisdom, its discipline, its literature and
art, all the teachings and self-sacrifice of its noblest teachers,
have been for this. But the harmony of contrary forces, which give
their rhythm to all creation, has not yet been perfected by man in his
civilisation, and the Creator in him is baffled over and over again.
He comes back to his work, however, and makes himself busy, building
his world in the midst of desolation and ruins. His history is the
history of his aspiration interrupted and renewed. And one truth of
which he must be reminded, therefore, is that the power which
accomplishes the miracle of creation, by bringing conflicting forces
into the harmony of the One, is no passion, but a love which accepts
the bonds of self-control from the joy of its own immensity—a love
whose sacrifice is the manifestation of its endless wealth within
itself.



                        AN INDIAN FOLK RELIGION

                                   I


In historical time the Buddha comes first of those who declared
salvation to all men, without distinction, as by right man's own. What
was the special force which startled men's minds and, almost within
the master's lifetime, spread his teachings over India? It was the
unique significance of the event, when a man came to men and said to
them, "I am here to emancipate you from the miseries of the thraldom
of self." This wisdom came, neither in texts of Scripture, nor in
symbols of deities, nor in religious practices sanctified by ages, but
through the voice of a living man and the love that flowed from a
human heart.

And I believe this was the first occasion in the history of the world
when the idea of the Avatâr found its place in religion. Western
scholars are never tired of insisting that Buddhism is of the nature
of a moral code, coldly leading to the path of extinction. They forget
that it was held to be a religion that roused in its devotees an
inextinguishable fire of enthusiasm and carried them to lifelong exile
across the mountain and desert barriers. To say that a philosophy of
suicide can keep kindled in human hearts for centuries such fervour of
self-sacrifice is to go against all the laws of sane psychology. The
religious enthusiasm which cannot be bound within any daily ritual,
but overflows into adventures of love and beneficence, must have in
its centre that element of personality which rouses the whole soul. In
answer, it may possibly be said that this was due to the personality
of Buddha himself. But that also is not quite true. The personality
which stirs the human heart to its immense depths, leading it to
impossible deeds of heroism, must in that process itself reveal to men
the infinite which is in all humanity. And that is what happened in
Buddhism, making it a religion in the complete sense of the word.

Like the religion of the Upanishads, Buddhism also generated two
divergent currents; the one impersonal, preaching the abnegation of
self through discipline, and the other personal, preaching the
cultivation of sympathy for all creatures, and devotion to the
infinite truth of love; the other, which is called the Mahâyâna, had
its origin in the positive element contained in Buddha's teachings,
which is immeasurable love. It could never, by any logic, find its
reality in the emptiness of the truthless abyss. And the object of
Buddha's meditation and his teachings was to free humanity from
sufferings. But what was the path that he revealed to us? Was it some
negative way of evading pain and seeking security against it? On the
contrary, his path was the path of sacrifice—the utmost sacrifice of
love. The meaning of such sacrifice is to reach some ultimate truth,
some positive ideal, which in its greatness can accept suffering and
transmute it into the profound peace of self-renunciation. True
emancipation from suffering, which is the inalienable condition of the
limited life of the self, can never be attained by fleeing from it,
but rather by changing its value in the realm of truth—the truth of
the higher life of love.

We have learnt that, by calculations made in accordance with the law
of gravitation, some planets were discovered exactly in the place
where they should be. Such a law of gravitation there is also in the
moral world. And when we find men's minds disturbed, as they were by
the preaching of the Buddha, we can be sure, even without any
corroborative evidence, that there must have been some great luminous
body of attraction, positive and powerful, and not a mere unfathomable
vacancy. It is exactly this which we discover in the heart of the
Mahâyâna system; and we have no hesitation in saying that the truth of
Buddhism is there. The oil has to be burnt, not for the purpose of
diminishing it, but for the purpose of giving light to the lamp. And
when the Buddha said that the self must go, he said at the same moment
that love must be realised. Thus originated the doctrine of the
Dharma-kâya, the Infinite Wisdom and Love manifested in the Buddha. It
was the first instance, as I have said, when men felt that the
Universal and the Eternal Spirit was revealed in a human individual
whom they had known and touched. The joy was too great for them, since
the very idea itself came to them as a freedom—a freedom from the
sense of their measureless insignificance. It was the first time, I
repeat, when the individual, as a man, felt in himself the Infinite
made concrete.

What was more, those men who felt the love welling forth from the
heart of Buddhism, as one with the current of the Eternal Love itself,
were struck with the idea that such an effluence could never have been
due to a single cataclysm of history—unnatural and therefore untrue.
They felt instead that it was in the eternal nature of truth, that the
event must belong to a series of manifestations; there must have been
numberless other revelations in the past and endless others to follow.

The idea grew and widened until men began to feel that this Infinite
Being was already in every one of them, and that it rested with
themselves to remove the sensual obstructions and reveal him in their
own lives. In every individual there was, they realised, the
potentiality of Buddha—that is to say, the Infinite made manifest.

We have to keep in mind the great fact that the preaching of the
Buddha in India was not followed by stagnation of life—as would
surely have happened if humanity was without any positive goal and his
teaching was without any permanent value in itself. On the contrary,
we find the arts and sciences springing up in its wake, institutions
started for alleviating the misery of all creatures, human and
non-human, and great centres of education founded. Some mighty power
was suddenly roused from its obscurity, which worked for long
centuries and changed the history of man in a large part of the world.
And that power came into its full activity only by the individual
being made conscious of his infinite worth. It was like the sudden
discovery of a great mine of living wealth.

During the period of Buddhism the doctrine of deliverance flourished,
which reached all mankind and released man's inner resources from
neglect and self-insult. Even to-day we see in our own country human
nature, from its despised corner of indignity, slowly and painfully
finding its way to assert the inborn majesty of man. It is like the
imprisoned tree finding a rift in the wall, and sending out its eager
branches into freedom, to prove that darkness is not its birthright,
that its love is for the sunshine. In the time of the Buddha the
individual discovered his own immensity of worth, first by witnessing
a man who united his heart in sympathy with all creatures, in all
worlds, through the power of a love that knew no bounds; and then by
learning that the same light of perfection lay confined within
himself behind the clouds of selfish desire, and that the
Bodhi-hridaya—"the heart of the Eternal Enlightenment"—every moment
claimed its unveiling in his own heart. Nâgârjuna speaks of this
Bodhi-hridaya (another of whose names is Bodhi-Citta) as follows:

     One who understands the nature of the Bodhi-hridaya, sees
     everything with a loving heart; for love is the essence of
     Bodhi-hridaya.[1]

     [Footnote 1: _Outlines of Mahâyâna Buddhism_, by Dr. D. T.
     Suzuki.]

My object in writing this paper is to show, by the further help of
illustration from a popular religious sect of Bengal, that the
religious instinct of man urges him towards a truth, by which he can
transcend the finite nature of the individual self. Man would never
feel the indignity of his limitations if these were inevitable. Within
him he has glimpses of the Infinite, which give him assurance that
this truth is not in his limitations, but that this truth can be
attained by love. For love is the positive quality of the Infinite,
and love's sacrifice accordingly does not lead to emptiness, but to
fulfilment, to Bodhi-hridaya, "the heart of enlightenment."

The members of the religious sect I have mentioned call themselves
"Baül." They live outside social recognition, and their very obscurity
helps them in their seeking, from a direct source, the enlightenment
which the soul longs for, the eternal light of love.

It would be absurd to say that there is little difference between
Buddhism and the religion of these simple people, who have no system
of metaphysics to support their faith. But my object in bringing close
together these two religions, which seem to belong to opposite poles,
is to point out the fundamental unity in them. Both of them believe in
a fulfilment which is reached by love's emancipating us from the
dominance of self. In both these religions we find man's yearning to
attain the infinite worth of his individuality, not through any
conventional valuation of society, but through his perfect
relationship with Truth. They agree in holding that the realisation of
our ultimate object is waiting for us in ourselves. The Baül likens
this fulfilment to the blossoming of a bud, and sings:

    Make way, O bud, make way,
      Burst open thy heart and make way.
    The opening spirit has overtaken thee,
      Canst thou remain a bud any longer?


                                  II

One day, in a small village in Bengal, an ascetic woman from the
neighbourhood came to see me. She had the name "Sarva-khepi" given to
her by the village people, the meaning of which is "the woman who is
mad about all things." She fixed her star-like eyes upon my face and
startled me with the question, "When are you coming to meet me
underneath the trees?" Evidently she pitied me who lived (according to
her) prisoned behind walls, banished away from the great meeting-place
of the All, where she had her dwelling. Just at that moment my
gardener came with his basket, and when the woman understood that the
flowers in the vase on my table were going to be thrown away, to make
place for the fresh ones, she looked pained and said to me, "You are
always engaged reading and writing; you do not see." Then she took the
discarded flowers in her palms, kissed them and touched them with her
forehead, and reverently murmured to herself, "Beloved of my heart." I
felt that this woman, in her direct vision of the infinite personality
in the heart of all things, truly represented the spirit of India.

In the same village I came into touch with some Baül singers. I had
known them by their names, occasionally seen them singing and begging
in the street, and so passed them by, vaguely classifying them in my
mind under the general name of Vairâgis, or ascetics.

The time came when I had occasion to meet with some members of the
same body and talk to them about spiritual matters. The first Baül
song, which I chanced to hear with any attention, profoundly stirred
my mind. Its words are so simple that it makes me hesitate to render
them in a foreign tongue, and set them forward for critical
observation. Besides, the best part of a song is missed when the tune
is absent; for thereby its movement and its colour are lost, and it
becomes like a butterfly whose wings have been plucked.

The first line may be translated thus: "Where shall I meet him, the
Man of my Heart?" This phrase, "the Man of my Heart," is not peculiar
to this song, but is usual with the Baül sect. It means that, for me,
the supreme truth of all existence is in the revelation of the
Infinite in my own humanity.

"The Man of my Heart," to the Baül, is like a divine instrument
perfectly tuned. He gives expression to infinite truth in the music
of life. And the longing for the truth which is in us, which we have
not yet realised, breaks out in the following Baül song:

    Where shall I meet him, the Man of my Heart?
    He is lost to me and I seek him wandering from land to land.

    I am listless for that moonrise of beauty,
        which is to light my life,
        which I long to see in the fulness of vision, in gladness of heart.

The name of the poet who wrote this song was Gagan. He was almost
illiterate; and the ideas he received from his Baül teacher found no
distraction from the self-consciousness of the modern age. He was a
village postman, earning about ten shillings a month, and he died
before he had completed his teens. The sentiment, to which he gave
such intensity of expression, is common to most of the songs of his
sect. And it is a sect, almost exclusively confined to that lower
floor of society, where the light of modern education hardly finds an
entrance, while wealth and respectability shun its utter indigence.

In the song I have translated above, the longing of the singer to
realise the infinite in his own personality is expressed. This has to
be done daily by its perfect expression in life, in love. For the
personal expression of life, in its perfection, is love; just as the
personal expression of truth in its perfection is beauty.

In the political life of the modern age the idea of democracy has
given mankind faith in the individual. It gives each man trust in his
own possibilities, and pride in his humanity. Something of the same
idea, we find, has been working in the popular mind of India, with
regard to its religious consciousness. Over and over again it tries to
assert, not only that God is _for_ each of us, but also that God is
_in_ each of us. These people have no special incarnations in their
simple theology, because they know that God is special to each
individual. They say that to be born a man is the greatest privilege
that can fall to a creature in all the world. They assert that gods in
Paradise envy human beings. Why? Because God's will, in giving his
love, finds its completeness in man's will returning that love.
Therefore Humanity is a necessary factor in the perfecting of the
divine truth. The Infinite, for its self-expression, comes down into
the manifoldness of the Finite; and the Finite, for its
self-realisation, must rise into the unity of the Infinite. Then only
is the Cycle of Truth complete.

The dignity of man, in his eternal right of Truth, finds expression in
the following song, composed, not by a theologian or a man of letters,
but by one who belongs to that ninety per cent of the population of
British India whose education has been far less than elementary, in
fact almost below zero:

    My longing is to meet you in play of love, my Lover;
    But this longing is not only mine, but also yours.
    For your lips can have their smile, and your flute
        its music, only in your delight in my love;
        and therefore you are importunate, even as I am.

If the world were a mere expression of formative forces, then this
song would be pathetic in its presumption. But why is there beauty at
all in creation—the beauty whose only meaning is in a call that
claims disinterestedness as a response? The poet proudly says: "Your
flute could not have its music of beauty if your delight were not in
my love. Your power is great—and there I am not equal to you—but it
lies even in me to make you smile, and if you and I never meet, then
this play of love remains incomplete."

If this were not true, then it would be an utter humiliation to exist
at all in this world. If it were solely _our_ business to seek the
Lover, and _his_ to keep himself passively aloof in the infinity of
his glory, or actively masterful only in imposing his commands upon
us, then we should dare to defy him, and refuse to accept the
everlasting insult latent in the one-sided importunity of a slave. And
this is what the Baül says—he who, in the world of men, goes about
singing for alms from door to door, with his one-stringed instrument
and long robe of patched-up rags on his back:

    I stop and sit here on the road. Do not ask me to walk farther.
    If your love can be complete without mine, let me turn back
        from seeing you.
    I have been travelling to seek you, my friend, for long;
    Yet I refuse to beg a sight of you, if you do not feel my need.
    I am blind with market dust and midday glare,
        and so wait, my heart's lover, in hopes that your own love
          will send you to find me out.

The poet is fully conscious that his value in the world's market is
pitifully small; that he is neither wealthy nor learned. Yet he has
his great compensation, for he has come close to his Lover's heart. In
Bengal the women bathing in the river often use their overturned water
jars to keep themselves floating when they swim, and the poet uses
this incident for his simile:

    It is lucky that I am an empty vessel,
    For when you swim, I keep floating by your side.
    Your full vessels are left on the empty shore, they are for use;
    But I am carried to the river in your arms, and I dance
        to the rhythm of your heart-throbs and heaving of the waves.

The great distinguished people of the world do not know that these
beggars—deprived of education, honour, and wealth—can, in the pride
of their souls, look down upon them as the unfortunate ones, who are
left on the shore for their worldly uses, but whose life ever misses
the touch of the Lover's arms.

The feeling that man is not a mere casual visitor at the palace-gate
of the world, but the invited guest whose presence is needed to give
the royal banquet its sole meaning, is not confined to any particular
sect in India. Let me quote here some poems from a mediæval poet of
Western India—Jnândâs—whose works are nearly forgotten, and have
become scarce from the very exquisiteness of their excellence. In the
following poem he is addressing God's messenger, who comes to us in
the morning light of our childhood, in the dusk of our day's end, and
in the night's darkness:

    Messenger, morning brought you, habited in gold.
    After sunset, your song wore a tune of ascetic grey,
        and then came night.
    Your message was written in bright letters across the black.
    Why is such splendour about you, to lure the heart of one
        who is nothing?

This is the answer of the messenger:

    Great is the festival hall where you are to be the only guest.
    Therefore the letter to you is written from sky to sky,
    And I, the proud servant, bring the invitation with all ceremony.

And thus the poet knows that the silent rows of stars carry God's own
invitation to the individual soul.

The same poet sings:

    What hast thou come to beg from the beggar, O King of Kings?
    My Kingdom is poor for want of him, my dear one, and I
        wait for him in sorrow.

    How long will you keep him waiting, O wretch,
        who has waited for you for ages in silence and stillness?
    Open your gate, and make this very moment fit for the union.

It is the song of man's pride in the value given to him by Supreme
Love and realised by his own love.

The Vaishnava religion, which has become the popular religion of
India, carries the same message: God's love finding its finality in
man's love. According to it, the lover, man, is the complement of the
Lover, God, in the internal love drama of existence; and God's call
is ever wafted in man's heart in the world-music, drawing him towards
the union. This idea has been expressed in rich elaboration of symbols
verging upon realism. But for these Baüls this idea is direct and
simple, full of the dignified beauty of truth, which shuns all tinsels
of ornament.

The Baül poet, when asked why he had no sect mark on his forehead,
answered in his song that the true colour decoration appears on the
skin of the fruit when its inner core is filled with ripe, sweet
juice; but by artificially smearing it with colour from outside you do
not make it ripe. And he says of his Guru, his teacher, that he is
puzzled to find in which direction he must make salutation. For his
teacher is not one, but many, who, moving on, form a procession of
wayfarers.

Baüls have no temple or image for their worship, and this utter
simplicity is needful for men whose one subject is to realise the
innermost nearness of God. The Baül poet expressly says that if we try
to approach God through the senses we miss him:

    Bring him not into your house as the guest of your eyes;
        but let him come at your heart's invitation.
    Opening your doors to that which is seen only, is to lose it.

Yet, being a poet, he also knows that the objects of sense can reveal
their spiritual meaning only when they are not seen through mere
physical eyes:

    Eyes can see only dust and earth,
    But feel it with your heart, it is pure joy.
    The flowers of delight blossom on all sides, in every form,
        but where is your heart's thread to weave them in a garland?

These Baüls have a philosophy, which they call the philosophy of the
body; but they keep its secret; it is only for the initiated.
Evidently the underlying idea is that the individual's body is itself
the temple, in whose inner mystic shrine the Divine appears before the
soul, and the key to it has to be found from those who know. But as
the key is not for us outsiders, I leave it with the observation that
this mystic philosophy of the body is the outcome of the attempt to
get rid of all the outward shelters which are too costly for people
like themselves. But this human body of ours is made by God's own
hand, from his own love, and even if some men, in the pride of their
superiority, may despise it, God finds his joy in dwelling in others
of yet lower birth. It is a truth easier of discovery by these people
of humble origin than by men of proud estate.

The pride of the Baül beggar is not in his worldly distinction, but in
the distinction that God himself has given to him. He feels himself
like a flute through which God's own breath of love has been breathed:

    My heart is like a flute he has played on.
    If ever it fall into other hands,—
        let him fling it away.
    My lover's flute is dear to him.
    Therefore, if to-day alien breath have entered it and
        sounded strange notes,
    Let him break it to pieces and strew the dust with them.

So we find that this man also has his disgust of defilement. While the
ambitious world of wealth and power despises him, he in his turn
thinks that the world's touch desecrates him who has been made sacred
by the touch of his Lover. He does not envy us our life of ambition
and achievements, but he knows how precious his own life has been:

    I am poured forth in living notes of joy and sorrow by your breath.
    Morning and evening, in summer and in rains, I am fashioned to music.
    Yet should I be wholly spent in some flight of song,
    I shall not grieve, the tune is so precious to me.

Our joys and sorrows are contradictory when self separates them in
opposition. But for the heart in which self merges in God's love,
they lose their absoluteness. So the Baül's prayer is to feel in all
situations—in danger, or pain, or sorrow—that he is in God's hands.
He solves the problem of emancipation from sufferings by accepting and
setting them in a higher context:

    I am the boat, you are the sea, and also the boatman.
    Though you never make the shore, though you let me sink,
         why should I be foolish and afraid?
    Is the reaching the shore a greater prize than losing myself
         with you?
    If you are only the haven, as they say, then what is the sea?
    Let it surge and toss me on its waves, I shall be content.
    I live in you, whatever and however you appear.
    Save me or kill me as you wish, only never leave me in
         others' hands.


                                  III

It is needless to say, before I conclude, that I had neither the
training nor the opportunity to study this mendicant religious sect in
Bengal from an ethnological standpoint. I was attracted to find out
how the living currents of religious movements work in the heart of
the people, saving them from degradation imposed by the society of the
learned, of the rich, or of the high-born; how the spirit of man, by
making use even of its obstacles, reaches fulfilment, led thither, not
by the learned authorities in the scriptures, or by the mechanical
impulse of the dogma-driven crowd, but by the unsophisticated
aspiration of the loving soul. On the inaccessible mountain peaks of
theology the snows of creed remain eternally rigid, cold, and pure.
But God's manifest shower falls direct on the plain of humble hearts,
flowing there in various channels, even getting mixed with some mud in
its course, as it is soaked into the underground currents, invisible,
but ever-moving.

I can think of nothing better than to conclude my paper with a poem of
Jnândâs, in which the aspiration of all simple spirits has found a
devout expression:

    I had travelled all day and was tired; then I bowed my head
          towards thy kingly court still far away.
    The night deepened, a longing burned in my heart.
    Whatever the words I sang, pain cried through them—for
          even my songs thirsted—
      O my Lover, my Beloved, my Best in all the world.

    When time seemed lost in darkness,
        thy hand dropped its sceptre to take up the lute and
          strike the uttermost chords;
    And my heart sang out,
      O my Lover, my Beloved, my Best in all the world.

    Ah, who is this whose arms enfold me?
    Whatever I have to leave, let me leave; and whatever I
          have to bear, let me bear.
    Only let me walk with thee,
      O my Lover, my Beloved, my Best in all the world.
    Descend at whiles from thy high audience hall, come down
          amid joys and sorrows.
    Hide in all forms and delights, in love,
    And in my heart sing thy songs,—
      O my Lover, my Beloved, my Best in all the world.



                             EAST AND WEST

                                   I


It is not always a profound interest in man that carries travellers
nowadays to distant lands. More often it is the facility for rapid
movement. For lack of time and for the sake of convenience we
generalise and crush our human facts into the packages within the
steel trunks that hold our travellers' reports.

Our knowledge of our own countrymen and our feelings about them have
slowly and unconsciously grown out of innumerable facts which are full
of contradictions and subject to incessant change. They have the
elusive mystery and fluidity of life. We cannot define to ourselves
what we are as a whole, because we know too much; because our
knowledge is more than knowledge. It is an immediate consciousness of
personality, any evaluation of which carries some emotion, joy or
sorrow, shame or exaltation. But in a foreign land we try to find our
compensation for the meagreness of our data by the compactness of the
generalisation which our imperfect sympathy itself helps us to form.
When a stranger from the West travels in the Eastern world he takes
the facts that displease him and readily makes use of them for his
rigid conclusions, fixed upon the unchallengeable authority of his
personal experience. It is like a man who has his own boat for
crossing his village stream, but, on being compelled to wade across
some strange watercourse, draws angry comparisons as he goes from
every patch of mud and every pebble which his feet encounter.

Our mind has faculties which are universal, but its habits are
insular. There are men who become impatient and angry at the least
discomfort when their habits are incommoded. In their idea of the next
world they probably conjure up the ghosts of their slippers and
dressing-gowns, and expect the latchkey that opens their lodging-house
door on earth to fit their front door in the other world. As
travellers they are a failure; for they have grown too accustomed to
their mental easy-chairs, and in their intellectual nature love home
comforts, which are of local make, more than the realities of life,
which, like earth itself, are full of ups and downs, yet are one in
their rounded completeness.

The modern age has brought the geography of the earth near to us, but
made it difficult for us to come into touch with man. We go to strange
lands and observe; we do not live there. We hardly meet men: but only
specimens of knowledge. We are in haste to seek for general types and
overlook individuals.

When we fall into the habit of neglecting to use the understanding
that comes of sympathy in our travels, our knowledge of foreign people
grows insensitive, and therefore easily becomes both unjust and cruel
in its character, and also selfish and contemptuous in its
application. Such has, too often, been the case with regard to the
meeting of Western people in our days with others for whom they do not
recognise any obligation of kinship.

It has been admitted that the dealings between different races of men
are not merely between individuals; that our mutual understanding is
either aided, or else obstructed, by the general emanations forming
the social atmosphere. These emanations are our collective ideas and
collective feelings, generated according to special historical
circumstances.

For instance, the caste-idea is a collective idea in India. When we
approach an Indian who is under the influence of this collective idea,
he is no longer a pure individual with his conscience fully awake to
the judging of the value of a human being. He is more or less a
passive medium for giving expression to the sentiment of a whole
community.

It is evident that the caste-idea is not creative; it is merely
institutional. It adjusts human beings according to some mechanical
arrangement. It emphasises the negative side of the individual—his
separateness. It hurts the complete truth in man.

In the West, also, the people have a certain collective idea that
obscures their humanity. Let me try to explain what I feel about it.


                                  II

Lately I went to visit some battlefields of France which had been
devastated by war. The awful calm of desolation, which still bore
wrinkles of pain—death-struggles stiffened into ugly ridges—brought
before my mind the vision of a huge demon, which had no shape, no
meaning, yet had two arms that could strike and break and tear, a
gaping mouth that could devour, and bulging brains that could conspire
and plan. It was a purpose, which had a living body, but no complete
humanity to temper it. Because it was passion—belonging to life, and
yet not having the wholeness of life—it was the most terrible of
life's enemies.

Something of the same sense of oppression in a different degree, the
same desolation in a different aspect, is produced in my mind when I
realise the effect of the West upon Eastern life—the West which, in
its relation to us, is all plan and purpose incarnate, without any
superfluous humanity.

I feel the contrast very strongly in Japan. In that country the old
world presents itself with some ideal of perfection, in which man has
his varied opportunities of self-revelation in art, in ceremonial, in
religious faith, and in customs expressing the poetry of social
relationship. There one feels that deep delight of hospitality which
life offers to life. And side by side, in the same soil, stands the
modern world, which is stupendously big and powerful, but
inhospitable. It has no simple-hearted welcome for man. It is living;
yet the incompleteness of life's ideal within it cannot but hurt
humanity.

The wriggling tentacles of a cold-blooded utilitarianism, with which
the West has grasped all the easily yielding succulent portions of the
East, are causing pain and indignation throughout the Eastern
countries. The West comes to us, not with the imagination and sympathy
that create and unite, but with a shock of passion—passion for power
and wealth. This passion is a mere force, which has in it the
principle of separation, of conflict.

I have been fortunate in coming into close touch with individual men
and women of the Western countries, and have felt with them their
sorrows and shared their aspirations. I have known that they seek the
same God, who is my God—even those who deny Him. I feel certain that,
if the great light of culture be extinct in Europe, our horizon in the
East will mourn in darkness. It does not hurt my pride to acknowledge
that, in the present age, Western humanity has received its mission to
be the teacher of the world; that her science, through the mastery of
laws of nature, is to liberate human souls from the dark dungeon of
matter. For this very reason I have realised all the more strongly,
on the other hand, that the dominant collective idea in the Western
countries is not creative. It is ready to enslave or kill individuals,
to drug a great people with soul-killing poison, darkening their whole
future with the black mist of stupefaction, and emasculating entire
races of men to the utmost degree of helplessness. It is wholly
wanting in spiritual power to blend and harmonise; it lacks the sense
of the great personality of man.

The most significant fact of modern days is this, that the West has
met the East. Such a momentous meeting of humanity, in order to be
fruitful, must have in its heart some great emotional idea, generous
and creative. There can be no doubt that God's choice has fallen upon
the knights-errant of the West for the service of the present age;
arms and armour have been given to them; but have they yet realised in
their hearts the single-minded loyalty to their cause which can resist
all temptations of bribery from the devil? The world to-day is offered
to the West. She will destroy it, if she does not use it for a great
creation of man. The materials for such a creation are in the hands of
science; but the creative genius is in Man's spiritual ideal.


                                  III

When I was young a stranger from Europe came to Bengal. He chose his
lodging among the people of the country, shared with them their frugal
diet, and freely offered them his service. He found employment in the
houses of the rich, teaching them French and German, and the money
thus earned he spent to help poor students in buying books. This meant
for him hours of walking in the mid-day heat of a tropical summer;
for, intent upon exercising the utmost economy, he refused to hire
conveyances. He was pitiless in his exaction from himself of his
resources, in money, time, and strength, to the point of privation;
and all this for the sake of a people who were obscure, to whom he was
not born, yet whom he dearly loved. He did not come to us with a
professional mission of teaching sectarian creeds; he had not in his
nature the least trace of that self-sufficiency of goodness, which
humiliates by gifts the victims of its insolent benevolence. Though he
did not know our language, he took every occasion to frequent our
meetings and ceremonies; yet he was always afraid of intrusion, and
tenderly anxious lest he might offend us by his ignorance of our
customs. At last, under the continual strain of work in an alien
climate and surroundings, his health broke down. He died, and was
cremated at our burning-ground, according to his express desire.

The attitude of his mind, the manner of his living, the object of his
life, his modesty, his unstinted self-sacrifice for a people who had
not even the power to give publicity to any benefaction bestowed upon
them, were so utterly unlike anything we were accustomed to associate
with the Europeans in India, that it gave rise in our mind to a
feeling of love bordering upon awe.

We all have a realm, a private paradise, in our mind, where dwell
deathless memories of persons who brought some divine light to our
life's experience, who may not be known to others, and whose names
have no place in the pages of history. Let me confess to you that this
man lives as one of those immortals in the paradise of my individual
life.

He came from Sweden, his name was Hammargren. What was most remarkable
in the event of his coming to us in Bengal was the fact that in his
own country he had chanced to read some works of my great countryman,
Ram Mohan Roy, and felt an immense veneration for his genius and his
character. Ram Mohan Roy lived in the beginning of the last century,
and it is no exaggeration when I describe him as one of the immortal
personalities of modern time. This young Swede had the unusual gift of
a far-sighted intellect and sympathy, which enabled him even from his
distance of space and time, and in spite of racial differences, to
realise the greatness of Ram Mohan Roy. It moved him so deeply that he
resolved to go to the country which produced this great man, and offer
her his service. He was poor, and he had to wait some time in England
before he could earn his passage money to India. There he came at
last, and in reckless generosity of love utterly spent himself to the
last breath of his life, away from home and kindred and all the
inheritances of his motherland. His stay among us was too short to
produce any outward result. He failed even to achieve during his life
what he had in his mind, which was to found by the help of his scanty
earnings a library as a memorial to Ram Mohan Roy, and thus to leave
behind him a visible symbol of his devotion. But what I prize most in
this European youth, who left no record of his life behind him, is not
the memory of any service of goodwill, but the precious gift of
respect which he offered to a people who are fallen upon evil times,
and whom it is so easy to ignore or to humiliate. For the first time
in the modern days this obscure individual from Sweden brought to our
country the chivalrous courtesy of the West, a greeting of human
fellowship.

The coincidence came to me with a great and delightful surprise when
the Nobel Prize was offered to me from Sweden. As a recognition of
individual merit it was of great value to me, no doubt; but it was the
acknowledgment of the East as a collaborator with the Western
continents, in contributing its riches to the common stock of
civilisation, which had the chief significance for the present age. It
meant joining hands in comradeship by the two great hemispheres of the
human world across the sea.


                                  IV

To-day the real East remains unexplored. The blindness of contempt is
more hopeless than the blindness of ignorance; for contempt kills the
light which ignorance merely leaves unignited. The East is waiting to
be understood by the Western races, in order not only to be able to
give what is true in her, but also to be confident of her own mission.

In Indian history, the meeting of the Mussulman and the Hindu produced
Akbar, the object of whose dream was the unification of hearts and
ideals. It had all the glowing enthusiasm of a religion, and it
produced an immediate and a vast result even in his own lifetime.

But the fact still remains that the Western mind, after centuries of
contact with the East, has not evolved the enthusiasm of a chivalrous
ideal which can bring this age to its fulfilment. It is everywhere
raising thorny hedges of exclusion and offering human sacrifices to
national self-seeking. It has intensified the mutual feelings of envy
among Western races themselves, as they fight over their spoils and
display a carnivorous pride in their snarling rows of teeth.

We must again guard our minds from any encroaching distrust of the
individuals of a nation. The active love of humanity and the spirit of
martyrdom for the cause of justice and truth which I have met with in
the Western countries have been a great lesson and inspiration to me.
I have no doubt in my mind that the West owes its true greatness, not
so much to its marvellous training of intellect, as to its spirit of
service devoted to the welfare of man. Therefore I speak with a
personal feeling of pain and sadness about the collective power which
is guiding the helm of Western civilisation. It is a passion, not an
ideal. The more success it has brought to Europe, the more costly it
will prove to her at last, when the accounts have to be rendered. And
the signs are unmistakable, that the accounts have been called for.
The time has come when Europe must know that the forcible parasitism
which she has been practising upon the two large Continents of the
world—the two most unwieldy whales of humanity—must be causing to
her moral nature a gradual atrophy and degeneration.

As an example, let me quote the following extract from the concluding
chapter of _From the Cape to Cairo_, by Messrs. Grogan and Sharp, two
writers who have the power to inculcate their doctrines by precept and
example. In their reference to the African they are candid, as when
they say, "We have stolen his land. Now we must steal his limbs."
These two sentences, carefully articulated, with a smack of
enjoyment, have been more clearly explained in the following
statement, where some sense of that decency which is the attenuated
ghost of a buried conscience, prompts the writers to use the phrase
"compulsory labour" in place of the honest word "slavery"; just as the
modern politician adroitly avoids the word "injunction" and uses the
word "mandate." "Compulsory labour in some form," they say, "is the
corollary of our occupation of the country." And they add: "It is
pathetic, but it is history," implying thereby that moral sentiments
have no serious effect in the history of human beings.

Elsewhere they write: "Either we must give up the country
commercially, or we must make the African work. And mere abuse of
those who point out the impasse cannot change the facts. We must
decide, and soon. Or rather the white man of South Africa will
decide." The authors also confess that they have seen too much of the
world "to have any lingering belief that Western civilisation benefits
native races."

The logic is simple—the logic of egoism. But the argument is
simplified by lopping off the greater part of the premise. For these
writers seem to hold that the only important question for the white
men of South Africa is, how indefinitely to grow fat on ostrich
feathers and diamond mines, and dance jazz dances over the misery and
degradation of a whole race of fellow-beings of a different colour
from their own. Possibly they believe that moral laws have a special
domesticated breed of comfortable concessions for the service of the
people in power. Possibly they ignore the fact that commercial and
political cannibalism, profitably practised upon foreign races, creeps
back nearer home; that the cultivation of unwholesome appetites has
its final reckoning with the stomach which has been made to serve it.
For, after all, man is a spiritual being, and not a mere living
money-bag jumping from profit to profit, and breaking the backbone of
human races in its financial leapfrog.

Such, however, has been the condition of things for more than a
century; and to-day, trying to read the future by the light of the
European conflagration, we are asking ourselves everywhere in the
East: "Is this frightfully overgrown power really great? It can bruise
us from without, but can it add to our wealth of spirit? It can sign
peace treaties, but can it give peace?"

It was about two thousand years ago that all-powerful Rome in one of
its eastern provinces executed on a cross a simple teacher of an
obscure tribe of fishermen. On that day the Roman governor felt no
falling off of his appetite or sleep. On that day there was, on the
one hand, the agony, the humiliation, the death; on the other, the
pomp of pride and festivity in the Governor's palace.

And to-day? To whom, then, shall we bow the head?

    Kasmai devaya havisha vidhema?

    (To which God shall we offer oblation?)

We know of an instance in our own history of India, when a great
personality, both in his life and voice, struck the keynote of the
solemn music of the soul—love for all creatures. And that music
crossed seas, mountains, and deserts. Races belonging to different
climates, habits, and languages were drawn together, not in the clash
of arms, not in the conflict of exploitation, but in harmony of life,
in amity and peace. That was creation.

When we think of it, we see at once what the confusion of thought was
to which the Western poet, dwelling upon the difference between East
and West, referred when he said, "Never the twain shall meet." It is
true that they are not yet showing any real sign of meeting. But the
reason is because the West has not sent out its humanity to meet the
man in the East, but only its machine. Therefore the poet's line has
to be changed into something like this:

    Man is man, machine is machine,
    And never the twain shall wed.

You must know that red tape can never be a common human bond; that
official sealing-wax can never provide means of mutual attachment;
that it is a painful ordeal for human beings to have to receive
favours from animated pigeonholes, and condescensions from printed
circulars that give notice but never speak. The presence of the
Western people in the East is a human fact. If we are to gain anything
from them, it must not be a mere sum-total of legal codes and systems
of civil and military services. Man is a great deal more to man than
that. We have our human birthright to claim direct help from the man
of the West, if he has anything great to give us. It must come to us,
not through mere facts in a juxtaposition, but through the
spontaneous sacrifice made by those who have the gift, and therefore
the responsibility.

Earnestly I ask the poet of the Western world to realise and sing to
you with all the great power of music which he has, that the East and
the West are ever in search of each other, and that they must meet not
merely in the fulness of physical strength, but in fulness of truth;
that the right hand, which wields the sword, has the need of the left,
which holds the shield of safety.

The East has its seat in the vast plains watched over by the
snow-peaked mountains and fertilised by rivers carrying mighty volumes
of water to the sea. There, under the blaze of a tropical sun, the
physical life has bedimmed the light of its vigour and lessened its
claims. There man has had the repose of mind which has ever tried to
set itself in harmony with the inner notes of existence. In the
silence of sunrise and sunset, and on star-crowded nights, he has sat
face to face with the Infinite, waiting for the revelation that opens
up the heart of all that there is. He has said, in a rapture of
realisation:

"Hearken to me, ye children of the Immortal, who dwell in the Kingdom
of Heaven. I have known, from beyond darkness, the Supreme Person,
shining with the radiance of the sun."

The man from the East, with his faith in the eternal, who in his soul
had met the touch of the Supreme Person—did he never come to you in
the West and speak to you of the Kingdom of Heaven? Did he not unite
the East and the West in truth, in the unity of one spiritual bond
between all children of the Immortal, in the realisation of one great
Personality in all human persons?

Yes, the East did once meet the West profoundly in the growth of her
life. Such union became possible, because the East came to the West
with the ideal that is creative, and not with the passion that
destroys moral bonds. The mystic consciousness of the Infinite, which
she brought with her, was greatly needed by the man of the West to
give him his balance.

On the other hand, the East must find her own balance in Science—the
magnificent gift that the West can bring to her. Truth has its nest as
well as its sky. That nest is definite in structure, accurate in law
of construction; and though it has to be changed and rebuilt over and
over again, the need of it is never-ending and its laws are eternal.
For some centuries the East has neglected the nest-building of truth.
She has not been attentive to learn its secret. Trying to cross the
trackless infinite, the East has relied solely upon her wings. She has
spurned the earth, till, buffeted by storms, her wings are hurt and
she is tired, sorely needing help. But has she then to be told that
the messenger of the sky and the builder of the nest shall never
meet?



                            THE MODERN AGE

                                   I


Wherever man meets man in a living relationship, the meeting finds its
natural expression in works of art, the signatures of beauty, in which
the mingling of the personal touch leaves its memorial.

On the other hand, a relationship of pure utility humiliates man—it
ignores the rights and needs of his deeper nature; it feels no
compunction in maltreating and killing things of beauty that can never
be restored.

Some years ago, when I set out from Calcutta on my voyage to Japan,
the first thing that shocked me, with a sense of personal injury, was
the ruthless intrusion of the factories for making gunny-bags on both
banks of the Ganges. The blow it gave to me was owing to the precious
memory of the days of my boyhood, when the scenery of this river was
the only great thing near my birthplace reminding me of the existence
of a world which had its direct communication with our innermost
spirit.

Calcutta is an upstart town with no depth of sentiment in her face and
in her manners. It may truly be said about her genesis:—In the
beginning there was the spirit of the Shop, which uttered through its
megaphone, "Let there be the Office!" and there was Calcutta. She
brought with her no dower of distinction, no majesty of noble or
romantic origin; she never gathered around her any great historical
associations, any annals of brave sufferings, or memory of mighty
deeds. The only thing which gave her the sacred baptism of beauty was
the river. I was fortunate enough to be born before the smoke-belching
iron dragon had devoured the greater part of the life of its banks;
when the landing-stairs descending into its waters, caressed by its
tides, appeared to me like the loving arms of the villages clinging to
it; when Calcutta, with her up-tilted nose and stony stare, had not
completely disowned her foster-mother, rural Bengal, and had not
surrendered body and soul to her wealthy paramour, the spirit of the
ledger, bound in dead leather.

But as an instance of the contrast of the different ideal of a
different age, incarnated in the form of a town, the memory of my last
visit to Benares comes to my mind. What impressed me most deeply,
while I was there, was the mother-call of the river Ganges, ever
filling the atmosphere with an "unheard melody," attracting the whole
population to its bosom every hour of the day. I am proud of the fact
that India has felt a most profound love for this river, which
nourishes civilisation on its banks, guiding its course from the
silence of the hills to the sea with its myriad voices of solitude.
The love of this river, which has become one with the love of the best
in man, has given rise to this town as an expression of reverence.
This is to show that there are sentiments in us which are creative,
which do not clamour for gain, but overflow in gifts, in spontaneous
generosity of self-sacrifice.

But our minds will nevermore cease to be haunted by the perturbed
spirit of the question, "What about gunny-bags?" I admit they are
indispensable, and am willing to allow them a place in society, if my
opponent will only admit that even gunny-bags should have their
limits, and will acknowledge the importance of leisure to man, with
space for joy and worship, and a home of wholesale privacy, with
associations of chaste love and mutual service. If this concession to
humanity be denied or curtailed, and if profit and production are
allowed to run amuck, they will play havoc with our love of beauty, of
truth, of justice, and also with our love for our fellow-beings. So it
comes about that the peasant cultivators of jute, who live on the
brink of everlasting famine, are combined against, and driven to lower
the price of their labours to the point of blank despair, by those who
earn more than cent per cent profit and wallow in the infamy of their
wealth. The facts that man is brave and kind, that he is social and
generous and self-sacrificing, have some aspect of the complete in
them; but the fact that he is a manufacturer of gunny-bags is too
ridiculously small to claim the right of reducing his higher nature to
insignificance. The fragmentariness of utility should never forget its
subordinate position in human affairs. It must not be permitted to
occupy more than its legitimate place and power in society, nor to
have the liberty to desecrate the poetry of life, to deaden our
sensitiveness to ideals, bragging of its own coarseness as a sign of
virility. The pity is that when in the centre of our activities we
acknowledge, by some proud name, the supremacy of wanton
destructiveness, or production not less wanton, we shut out all the
lights of our souls, and in that darkness our conscience and our
consciousness of shame are hidden, and our love of freedom is killed.

I do not for a moment mean to imply that in any particular period of
history men were free from the disturbance of their lower passions.
Selfishness ever had its share in government and trade. Yet there was
a struggle to maintain a balance of forces in society; and our
passions cherished no delusions about their own rank and value. They
contrived no clever devices to hoodwink our moral nature. For in those
days our intellect was not tempted to put its weight into the balance
on the side of over-greed.

But in recent centuries a devastating change has come over our
mentality with regard to the acquisition of money. Whereas in former
ages men treated it with condescension, even with disrespect, now they
bend their knees to it. That it should be allowed a sufficiently large
place in society, there can be no question; but it becomes an outrage
when it occupies those seats which are specially reserved for the
immortals, by bribing us, tampering with our moral pride, recruiting
the best strength of society in a traitor's campaign against human
ideals, thus disguising, with the help of pomp and pageantry, its true
insignificance. Such a state of things has come to pass because, with
the help of science, the possibilities of profit have suddenly become
immoderate. The whole of the human world, throughout its length and
breadth, has felt the gravitational pull of a giant planet of greed,
with concentric rings of innumerable satellites, causing in our
society a marked deviation from the moral orbit. In former times the
intellectual and spiritual powers of this earth upheld their dignity
of independence and were not giddily rocked on the tides of the money
market. But, as in the last fatal stages of disease, this fatal
influence of money has got into our brain and affected our heart. Like
a usurper, it has occupied the throne of high social ideals, using
every means, by menace and threat, to seize upon the right, and,
tempted by opportunity, presuming to judge it. It has not only science
for its ally, but other forces also that have some semblance of
religion, such as nation-worship and the idealising of organised
selfishness. Its methods are far-reaching and sure. Like the claws of
a tiger's paw, they are softly sheathed. Its massacres are invisible,
because they are fundamental, attacking the very roots of life. Its
plunder is ruthless behind a scientific system of screens, which have
the formal appearance of being open and responsible to inquiries. By
whitewashing its stains it keeps its respectability unblemished. It
makes a liberal use of falsehood in diplomacy, only feeling
embarrassed when its evidence is disclosed by others of the trade. An
unscrupulous system of propaganda paves the way for widespread
misrepresentation. It works up the crowd psychology through regulated
hypnotic doses at repeated intervals, administered in bottles with
moral labels upon them of soothing colours. In fact, man has been able
to make his pursuit of power easier to-day by his art of mitigating
the obstructive forces that come from the higher region of his
humanity. With his cult of power and his idolatry of money he has, in
a great measure, reverted to his primitive barbarism, a barbarism
whose path is lit up by the lurid light of intellect. For barbarism is
the simplicity of a superficial life. It may be bewildering in its
surface adornments and complexities, but it lacks the ideal to impart
to it the depth of moral responsibility.


                                  II

Society suffers from a profound feeling of unhappiness, not so much
when it is in material poverty as when its members are deprived of a
large part of their humanity. This unhappiness goes on smouldering in
the subconscious mind of the community till its life is reduced to
ashes or a sudden combustion is produced. The repressed personality of
man generates an inflammable moral gas deadly in its explosive force.

We have seen in the late war, and also in some of the still more
recent events of history, how human individuals freed from moral and
spiritual bonds find a boisterous joy in a debauchery of destruction.
There is generated a disinterested passion of ravage. Through such
catastrophe we can realise what formidable forces of annihilation are
kept in check in our communities by bonds of social ideas; nay, made
into multitudinous manifestations of beauty and fruitfulness. Thus we
know that evils are, like meteors, stray fragments of life, which need
the attraction of some great ideal in order to be assimilated with the
wholesomeness of creation. The evil forces are literally outlaws;
they only need the control and cadence of spiritual laws to change
them into good. The true goodness is not the negation of badness, it
is in the mastery of it. Goodness is the miracle which turns the
tumult of chaos into a dance of beauty.

In modern society the ideal of wholeness has lost its force. Therefore
its different sections have become detached and resolved into their
elemental character of forces. Labour is a force; so also is Capital;
so are the Government and the People; so are Man and Woman. It is said
that when the forces lying latent in even a handful of dust are
liberated from their bond of unity, they can lift the buildings of a
whole neighbourhood to the height of a mountain. Such disfranchised
forces, irresponsible free-booters, may be useful to us for certain
purposes, but human habitations standing secure on their foundations
are better for us. To own the secret of utilising these forces is a
proud fact for us, but the power of self-control and the
self-dedication of love are truer subjects for the exultation of
mankind. The genii of the Arabian Nights may have in their magic their
lure and fascination for us. But the consciousness of God is of
another order, infinitely more precious in imparting to our minds
ideas of the spiritual power of creation. Yet these genii are abroad
everywhere; and even now, after the late war, their devotees are
getting ready to play further tricks upon humanity by suddenly
spiriting it away to some hill-top of desolation.


                                  III

We know that when, at first, any large body of people in their history
became aware of their unity, they expressed it in some popular symbol
of divinity. For they felt that their combination was not an
arithmetical one; its truth was deeper than the truth of number. They
felt that their community was not a mere agglutination but a creation,
having upon it the living touch of the infinite Person. The
realisation of this truth having been an end in itself, a fulfilment,
it gave meaning to self-sacrifice, to the acceptance even of death.

But our modern education is producing a habit of mind which is ever
weakening in us the spiritual apprehension of truth—the truth of a
person as the ultimate reality of existence. Science has its proper
sphere in analysing this world as a construction, just as grammar has
its legitimate office in analysing the syntax of a poem. But the
world, as a creation, is not a mere construction; it too is more than
a syntax. It is a poem, which we are apt to forget when grammar takes
exclusive hold of our minds.

Upon the loss of this sense of a universal personality, which is
religion, the reign of the machine and of method has been firmly
established, and man, humanly speaking, has been made a homeless
tramp. As nomads, ravenous and restless, the men from the West have
come to us. They have exploited our Eastern humanity for sheer gain of
power. This modern meeting of men has not yet received the blessing of
God. For it has kept us apart, though railway lines are laid far and
wide, and ships are plying from shore to shore to bring us together.

It has been said in the Upanishads:

    Yastu sarvâni bhutâni âtmânyevânupashyati
    Sarva bhuteshu châtmânam na tato vijugupsate.

     (He who sees all things in _âtmâ_, in the infinite spirit,
     and the infinite spirit in all beings, remains no longer
     unrevealed.)

In the modern civilisation, for which an enormous number of men are
used as materials, and human relationships have in a large measure
become utilitarian, man is imperfectly revealed. For man's revelation
does not lie in the fact that he is a power, but that he is a spirit.
The prevalence of the theory which realises the power of the machine
in the universe, and organises men into machines, is like the eruption
of Etna, tremendous in its force, in its outburst of fire and fume;
but its creeping lava covers up human shelters made by the ages, and
its ashes smother life.


                                  IV

The terribly efficient method of repressing personality in the
individuals and the races who have failed to resist it has, in the
present scientific age, spread all over the world; and in consequence
there have appeared signs of a universal disruption which seems not
far off. Faced with the possibility of such a disaster, which is sure
to affect the successful peoples of the world in their intemperate
prosperity, the great Powers of the West are seeking peace, not by
curbing their greed, or by giving up the exclusive advantages which
they have unjustly acquired, but by concentrating their forces for
mutual security.

But can powers find their equilibrium in themselves? Power has to be
made secure not only against power, but also against weakness; for
there lies the peril of its losing balance. The weak are as great a
danger for the strong as quicksands for an elephant. They do not
assist progress because they do not resist; they only drag down. The
people who grow accustomed to wield absolute power over others are apt
to forget that by so doing they generate an unseen force which some
day rends that power into pieces. The dumb fury of the downtrodden
finds its awful support from the universal law of moral balance. The
air which is so thin and unsubstantial gives birth to storms that
nothing can resist. This has been proved in history over and over
again, and stormy forces arising from the revolt of insulted humanity
are openly gathering in the air at the present time.

Yet in the psychology of the strong the lesson is despised and no
count taken of the terribleness of the weak. This is the latent
ignorance that, like an unsuspected worm, burrows under the bulk of
the prosperous. Have we never read of the castle of power, securely
buttressed on all sides, in a moment dissolving in air at the
explosion caused by the weak and outraged besiegers? Politicians
calculate upon the number of mailed hands that are kept on the
sword-hilts: they do not possess the third eye to see the great
invisible hand that clasps in silence the hand of the helpless and
waits its time. The strong form their league by a combination of
powers, driving the weak to form their own league alone with their
God. I know I am crying in the wilderness when I raise the voice of
warning; and while the West is busy with its organisation of a
machine-made peace, it will still continue to nourish by its
iniquities the underground forces of earthquake in the Eastern
Continent. The West seems unconscious that Science, by providing it
with more and more power, is tempting it to suicide and encouraging it
to accept the challenge of the disarmed; it does not know that the
challenge comes from a higher source.

Two prophecies about the world's salvation are cherished in the hearts
of the two great religions of the world. They represent the highest
expectation of man, thereby indicating his faith in a truth which he
instinctively considers as ultimate—the truth of love. These
prophecies have not for their vision the fettering of the world and
reducing it to tameness by means of a close-linked power forged in the
factory of a political steel trust. One of the religions has for its
meditation the image of the Buddha who is to come, Maitreya, the
Buddha of love; and he is to bring peace. The other religion waits for
the coming of Christ. For Christ preached peace when he preached love,
when he preached the oneness of the Father with the brothers who are
many. And this was the truth of peace. Christ never held that peace
was the best policy. For policy is not truth. The calculation of
self-interest can never successfully fight the irrational force of
passion—the passion which is perversion of love, and which can only
be set right by the truth of love. So long as the powers build a
league on the foundation of their desire for safety, secure enjoyment
of gains, consolidation of past injustice, and putting off the
reparation of wrongs, while their fingers still wriggle for greed and
reek of blood, rifts will appear in their union; and in future their
conflicts will take greater force and magnitude. It is political and
commercial egoism which is the evil harbinger of war. By different
combinations it changes its shape and dimensions, but not its nature.
This egoism is still held sacred, and made a religion; and such a
religion, by a mere change of temple, and by new committees of
priests, will never save mankind. We must know that, as, through
science and commerce, the realisation of the unity of the material
world gives us power, so the realisation of the great spiritual Unity
of Man alone can give us peace.



                         THE SPIRIT OF FREEDOM

        (A LETTER FROM NEW YORK TO THE AUTHOR'S OWN COUNTRYMEN)


When freedom is not an inner idea which imparts strength to our
activities and breadth to our creations, when it is merely a thing of
external circumstance, it is like an open space to one who is
blindfolded.

In my recent travels in the West I have felt that out there freedom as
an idea has become feeble and ineffectual. Consequently a spirit of
repression and coercion is fast spreading in the politics and social
relationships of the people.

In the age of monarchy the king lived surrounded by a miasma of
intrigue. At court there was an endless whispering of lies and
calumny, and much plotting and planning among the conspiring courtiers
to manipulate the king as the instrument of their own purposes.

In the present age intrigue plays a wider part, and affects the whole
country. The people are drugged with the hashish of false hopes and
urged to deeds of frightfulness by the goadings of manufactured
panics; their higher feelings are exploited by devious channels of
unctuous hypocrisy, their pockets picked under anæsthetics of
flattery, their very psychology affected by a conspiracy of money and
unscrupulous diplomacy.

In the old order the king was given to understand that he was the
freest individual in the world. A greater semblance of external
freedom, no doubt, he had than other individuals. But they built for
him a gorgeous prison of unreality.

The same thing is happening now with the people of the West. They are
flattered into believing that they are free, and they have the
sovereign power in their hands. But this power is robbed by hosts of
self-seekers, and the horse is captured and stabled because of his
gift of freedom over space. The mob-mind is allowed the enjoyment of
an apparent liberty, while its true freedom is curtailed on every
side. Its thoughts are fashioned according to the plans of organised
interest; in its choosing of ideas and forming of opinions it is
hindered either by some punitive force or by the constant insinuation
of untruths; it is made to dwell in an artificial world of hypnotic
phrases. In fact, the people have become the storehouse of a power
that attracts round it a swarm of adventurers who are secretly
investing its walls to exploit it for their own devices.

Thus it has become more and more evident to me that the ideal of
freedom has grown tenuous in the atmosphere of the West. The mentality
is that of a slave-owning community, with a mutilated multitude of men
tied to its commercial and political treadmill. It is the mentality of
mutual distrust and fear. The appalling scenes of inhumanity and
injustice, which are growing familiar to us, are the outcome of a
psychology that deals with terror. No cruelty can be uglier in its
ferocity than the cruelty of the coward. The people who have
sacrificed their souls to the passion of profit-making and the
drunkenness of power are constantly pursued by phantoms of panic and
suspicion, and therefore they are ruthless even where they are least
afraid of mischances. They become morally incapable of allowing
freedom to others, and in their eagerness to curry favour with the
powerful they not only connive at the injustice done by their own
partners in political gambling, but participate in it. A perpetual
anxiety for the protection of their gains at any cost strikes at the
love of freedom and justice, until at length they are ready to forgo
liberty for themselves and for others.

My experience in the West, where I have realised the immense power of
money and of organised propaganda,—working everywhere behind screens
of camouflage, creating an atmosphere of distrust, timidity, and
antipathy,—has impressed me deeply with the truth that real freedom
is of the mind and spirit; it can never come to us from outside. He
only has freedom who ideally loves freedom himself and is glad to
extend it to others. He who cares to have slaves must chain himself to
them; he who builds walls to create exclusion for others builds walls
across his own freedom; he who distrusts freedom in others loses his
moral right to it. Sooner or later he is lured into the meshes of
physical and moral servility.

Therefore I would urge my own countrymen to ask themselves if the
freedom to which they aspire is one of external conditions. Is it
merely a transferable commodity? Have they acquired a true love of
freedom? Have they faith in it? Are they ready to make space in their
society for the minds of their children to grow up in the ideal of
human dignity, unhindered by restrictions that are unjust and
irrational?

Have we not made elaborately permanent the walls of our social
compartments? We are tenaciously proud of their exclusiveness. We
boast that, in this world, no other society but our own has come to
finality in the classifying of its living members. Yet in our
political agitations we conveniently forget that any unnaturalness in
the relationship of governors and governed which humiliates us,
becomes an outrage when it is artificially fixed under the threat of
military persecution.

When India gave voice to immortal thoughts, in the time of fullest
vigour of vitality, her children had the fearless spirit of the
seekers of truth. The great epic of the soul of our people—the
_Mahâbhârata_—gives us a wonderful vision of an overflowing life,
full of the freedom of inquiry and experiment. When the age of the
Buddha came, humanity was stirred in our country to its uttermost
depth. The freedom of mind which it produced expressed itself in a
wealth of creation, spreading everywhere in its richness over the
continent of Asia. But with the ebb of life in India the spirit of
creation died away. It hardened into an age of inert construction. The
organic unity of a varied and elastic society gave way to a
conventional order which proved its artificial character by its
inexorable law of exclusion.

Life has its inequalities, I admit, but they are natural and are in
harmony with our vital functions. The head keeps its place apart from
the feet, not through some external arrangement or any conspiracy of
coercion. If the body is compelled to turn somersaults for an
indefinite period, the head never exchanges its relative function for
that of the feet. But have our social divisions the same
inevitableness of organic law? If we have the hardihood to say "yes"
to that question, then how can we blame an alien people for subjecting
us to a political order which they are tempted to believe eternal?

By squeezing human beings in the grip of an inelastic system and
forcibly holding them fixed, we have ignored the laws of life and
growth. We have forced living souls into a permanent passivity, making
them incapable of moulding circumstance to their own intrinsic design,
and of mastering their own destiny. Borrowing our ideal of life from a
dark period of our degeneracy, we have covered up our sensitiveness
of soul under the immovable weight of a remote past. We have set up an
elaborate ceremonial of cage-worship, and plucked all the feathers
from the wings of the living spirit of our people. And for us,—with
our centuries of degradation and insult, with the amorphousness of our
national unity, with our helplessness before the attack of disasters
from without and our unreasoning self-obstructions from within,—the
punishment has been terrible. Our stupefaction has become so absolute
that we do not even realise that this persistent misfortune, dogging
our steps for ages, cannot be a mere accident of history, removable
only by another accident from outside.

Unless we have true faith in freedom, knowing it to be creative,
manfully taking all its risks, not only do we lose the right to claim
freedom in politics, but we also lack the power to maintain it with
all our strength. For that would be like assigning the service of God
to a confirmed atheist. And men, who contemptuously treat their own
brothers and sisters as eternal babies, never to be trusted in the
most trivial details of their personal life,—coercing them at every
step by the cruel threat of persecution into following a blind lane
leading to nowhere, driving a number of them into hypocrisy and into
moral inertia,—will fail over and over again to rise to the height of
their true and severe responsibility. They will be incapable of
holding a just freedom in politics, and of fighting in freedom's
cause.

The civilisation of the West has in it the spirit of the machine which
must move; and to that blind movement human lives are offered as fuel,
keeping up the steam-power. It represents the active aspect of inertia
which has the appearance of freedom, but not its truth, and therefore
gives rise to slavery both within its boundaries and outside. The
present civilisation of India has the constraining power of the mould.
It squeezes living man in the grip of rigid regulations, and its
repression of individual freedom makes it only too easy for men to be
forced into submission of all kinds and degrees. In both of these
traditions life is offered up to something which is not life; it is a
sacrifice, which has no God for its worship, and is therefore utterly
in vain. The West is continually producing mechanical power in excess
of its spiritual control, and India has produced a system of
mechanical control in excess of its vitality.



                              THE NATION


The peoples are living beings. They have their distinct personalities.
But nations are organisations of power, and therefore their inner
aspects and outward expressions are everywhere monotonously the same.
Their differences are merely differences in degree of efficiency.

In the modern world the fight is going on between the living spirit of
the people and the methods of nation-organising. It is like the
struggle that began in Central Asia between cultivated areas of man's
habitation and the continually encroaching desert sands, till the
human region of life and beauty was choked out of existence. When the
spread of higher ideals of humanity is not held to be important, the
hardening method of national efficiency gains a certain strength; and
for some limited period of time, at least, it proudly asserts itself
as the fittest to survive. But it is the survival of that part of man
which is the least living. And this is the reason why dead monotony is
the sign of the spread of the Nation. The modern towns, which present
the physiognomy due to this dominance of the Nation, are everywhere
the same, from San Francisco to London, from London to Tokyo. They
show no faces, but merely masks.

The peoples, being living personalities, must have their
self-expression, and this leads to their distinctive creations. These
creations are literature, art, social symbols and ceremonials. They
are like different dishes at one common feast. They add richness to
our enjoyment and understanding of truth. They are making the world of
man fertile of life and variedly beautiful.

But the nations do not create, they merely produce and destroy.
Organisations for production are necessary. Even organisations for
destruction may be so. But when, actuated by greed and hatred, they
crowd away into a corner the living man who creates, then the harmony
is lost, and the people's history runs at a break-neck speed towards
some fatal catastrophe.

Humanity, where it is living, is guided by inner ideals; but where it
is a dead organisation it becomes impervious to them. Its building
process is only an external process, and in its response to the moral
guidance it has to pass through obstacles that are gross and
non-plastic.

Man as a person has his individuality, which is the field where his
spirit has its freedom to express itself and to grow. The professional
man carries a rigid crust around him which has very little variation
and hardly any elasticity. This professionalism is the region where
men specialise their knowledge and organise their power, mercilessly
elbowing each other in their struggle to come to the front.
Professionalism is necessary, without doubt; but it must not be
allowed to exceed its healthy limits, to assume complete mastery over
the personal man, making him narrow and hard, exclusively intent upon
pursuit of success at the cost of his faith in ideals.

In ancient India professions were kept within limits by social
regulation. They were considered primarily as social necessities, and
in the second place as the means of livelihood for individuals. Thus
man, being free from the constant urging of unbounded competition,
could have leisure to cultivate his nature in its completeness.

The Cult of the Nation is the professionalism of the people. This cult
is becoming their greatest danger, because it is bringing them
enormous success, making them impatient of the claims of higher
ideals. The greater the amount of success, the stronger are the
conflicts of interest and jealousy and hatred which are aroused in
men's minds, thereby making it more and more necessary for other
peoples, who are still living, to stiffen into nations. With the
growth of nationalism, man has become the greatest menace to man.
Therefore the continual presence of panic goads that very nationalism
into ever-increasing menace.

Crowd psychology is a blind force. Like steam and other physical
forces, it can be utilised for creating a tremendous amount of power.
And therefore rulers of men, who, out of greed and fear, are bent upon
turning their peoples into machines of power, try to train this crowd
psychology for their special purposes. They hold it to be their duty
to foster in the popular mind universal panic, unreasoning pride in
their own race, and hatred of others. Newspapers, school-books, and
even religious services are made use of for this object; and those
who have the courage to express their disapprobation of this blind and
impious cult are either punished in the law-courts, or are socially
ostracised. The individual thinks, even when he feels; but the same
individual, when he feels with the crowd, does not reason at all. His
moral sense becomes blurred. This suppression of higher humanity in
crowd minds is productive of enormous strength. For the crowd mind is
essentially primitive; its forces are elemental. Therefore the Nation
is for ever watching to take advantage of this enormous power of
darkness.

The people's instinct of self-preservation has been made dominant at
particular times of crisis. Then, for the time being, the
consciousness of its solidarity becomes aggressively wide-awake. But
in the Nation this hyper-consciousness is kept alive for all time by
artificial means. A man has to act the part of a policeman when he
finds his house invaded by burglars. But if that remains his normal
condition, then his consciousness of his household becomes acute and
over-wrought, making him fly at every stranger passing near his house.
This intensity of self-consciousness is nothing of which a man should
feel proud; certainly it is not healthful. In like manner, incessant
self-consciousness in a nation is highly injurious for the people. It
serves its immediate purpose, but at the cost of the eternal in man.

When a whole body of men train themselves for a particular narrow
purpose, it becomes a common interest with them to keep up that
purpose and preach absolute loyalty to it. Nationalism is the training
of a whole people for a narrow ideal; and when it gets hold of their
minds it is sure to lead them to moral degeneracy and intellectual
blindness. We cannot but hold firm the faith that this Age of
Nationalism, of gigantic vanity and selfishness, is only a passing
phase in civilisation, and those who are making permanent arrangements
for accommodating this temporary mood of history will be unable to fit
themselves for the coming age, when the true spirit of freedom will
have sway.

With the unchecked growth of Nationalism the moral foundation of man's
civilisation is unconsciously undergoing a change. The ideal of the
social man is unselfishness, but the ideal of the Nation, like that of
the professional man, is selfishness. This is why selfishness in the
individual is condemned, while in the nation it is extolled, which
leads to hopeless moral blindness, confusing the religion of the
people with the religion of the nation. Therefore, to take an example,
we find men more and more convinced of the superior claims of
Christianity, merely because Christian nations are in possession of
the greater part of the world. It is like supporting a robber's
religion by quoting the amount of his stolen property. Nations
celebrate their successful massacre of men in their churches. They
forget that Thugs also ascribed their success in manslaughter to the
favour of their goddess. But in the case of the latter their goddess
frankly represented the principle of destruction. It was the criminal
tribe's own murderous instinct deified—the instinct, not of one
individual, but of the whole community, and therefore held sacred. In
the same manner, in modern churches, selfishness, hatred and vanity in
their collective aspect of national instincts do not scruple to share
the homage paid to God.

Of course, pursuit of self-interest need not be wholly selfish; it can
even be in harmony with the interest of all. Therefore, ideally
speaking, the nationalism, which stands for the expression of the
collective self-interest of a people, need not be ashamed of itself
if it maintains its true limitations. But what we see in practice is,
that every nation which has prospered has done so through its career
of aggressive selfishness either in commercial adventures or in
foreign possessions, or in both. And this material prosperity not only
feeds continually the selfish instincts of the people, but impresses
men's minds with the lesson that, for a nation, selfishness is a
necessity and therefore a virtue. It is the emphasis laid in Europe
upon the idea of the Nation's constant increase of power, which is
becoming the greatest danger to man, both in its direct activity and
its power of infection.

We must admit that evils there are in human nature, in spite of our
faith in moral laws and our training in self-control. But they carry
on their foreheads their own brand of infamy, their very success
adding to their monstrosity. All through man's history there will be
some who suffer, and others who cause suffering. The conquest of evil
will never be a fully accomplished fact, but a continuous process like
the process of burning in a flame.

In former ages, when some particular people became turbulent and tried
to rob others of their human rights, they sometimes achieved success
and sometimes failed. And it amounted to nothing more than that. But
when this idea of the Nation, which has met with universal acceptance
in the present day, tries to pass off the cult of collective
selfishness as a moral duty, simply because that selfishness is
gigantic in stature, it not only commits depredation, but attacks the
very vitals of humanity. It unconsciously generates in people's minds
an attitude of defiance against moral law. For men are taught by
repeated devices the lesson that the Nation is greater than the
people, while yet it scatters to the winds the moral law that the
people have held sacred.

It has been said that a disease becomes most acutely critical when the
brain is affected. For it is the brain that is constantly directing
the siege against all disease forces. The spirit of national
selfishness is that brain disease of a people which shows itself in
red eyes and clenched fists, in violence of talk and movements, all
the while shattering its natural restorative powers. But the power of
self-sacrifice, together with the moral faculty of sympathy and
co-operation, is the guiding spirit of social vitality. Its function
is to maintain a beneficent relation of harmony with its
surroundings. But when it begins to ignore the moral law which is
universal and uses it only within the bounds of its own narrow sphere,
then its strength becomes like the strength of madness which ends in
self-destruction.

What is worse, this aberration of a people, decked with the showy
title of "patriotism," proudly walks abroad, passing itself off as a
highly moral influence. Thus it has spread its inflammatory contagion
all over the world, proclaiming its fever flush to be the best sign of
health. It is causing in the hearts of peoples, naturally inoffensive,
a feeling of envy at not having their temperature as high as that of
their delirious neighbours and not being able to cause as much
mischief, but merely having to suffer from it.

I have often been asked by my Western friends how to cope with this
evil, which has attained such sinister strength and vast dimensions.
In fact, I have often been blamed for merely giving warning, and
offering no alternative. When we suffer as a result of a particular
system, we believe that some other system would bring us better luck.
We are apt to forget that all systems produce evil sooner or later,
when the psychology which is at the root of them is wrong. The system
which is national to-day may assume the shape of the international
to-morrow; but so long as men have not forsaken their idolatry of
primitive instincts and collective passions, the new system will only
become a new instrument of suffering. And because we are trained to
confound efficient system with moral goodness itself, every ruined
system makes us more and more distrustful of moral law.

Therefore I do not put my faith in any new institution, but in the
individuals all over the world who think clearly, feel nobly, and act
rightly, thus becoming the channels of moral truth. Our moral ideals
do not work with chisels and hammers. Like trees, they spread their
roots in the soil and their branches in the sky, without consulting
any architect for their plans.



                            WOMAN AND HOME


Creative expressions attain their perfect form through emotions
modulated. Woman has that expression natural to her—a cadence of
restraint in her behaviour, producing poetry of life. She has been an
inspiration to man, guiding, most often unconsciously, his restless
energy into an immense variety of creations in literature, art, music
and religion. This is why, in India, woman has been described as the
symbol of Shakti, the creative power.

But if woman begins to believe that, though biologically her function
is different from that of man, psychologically she is identical with
him; if the human world in its mentality becomes exclusively male,
then before long it will be reduced to utter inanity. For life finds
its truth and beauty, not in any exaggeration of sameness, but in
harmony.

If woman's nature were identical with man's, if Eve were a mere
tautology of Adam, it would only give rise to a monotonous
superfluity. But that she was not so was proved by the banishment she
secured from a ready-made Paradise. She had the instinctive wisdom to
realise that it was her mission to help her mate in creating a
Paradise of their own on earth, whose ideal she was to supply with her
life, whose materials were to be produced and gathered by her comrade.

However, it is evident that an increasing number of women in the West
are ready to assert that their difference from men is unimportant. The
reason for the vehement utterance of such a paradox cannot be ignored.
It is a rebellion against a necessity, which is not equal for both the
partners.

Love in all forms has its obligations, and the love that binds women
to their children binds them to their homes. But necessity is a
tyrant, making us submit to injury and indignity, allowing advantage
over us to those who are wholly or comparatively free from its burden.
Such has been the case in the social relationship between man and
woman. Along with the difference inherent in their respective natures,
there have grown up between them inequalities fostered by
circumstances. Man is not handicapped by the same biological and
psychological responsibilities as woman, and therefore he has the
liberty to give her the security of home. This liberty exacts payment
when it offers its boon, because to give or to withhold the gift is
within its power. It is the unequal freedom in their mutual
relationships which has made the weight of life's tragedies so
painfully heavy for woman to bear.

Some mitigation of her disadvantage has been effected by her rendering
herself and her home a luxury to man. She has accentuated those
qualities in herself which insidiously impose their bondage over her
mate, some by pandering to his weakness, and some by satisfying his
higher nature, till the sex-consciousness in our society has grown
abnormal and overpowering. There is no actual objection to this in
itself, for it offers a stimulus, acting in the depth of life, which
leads to creative exuberance. But a great deal of it is a forced
growth of compulsion bearing seeds of degradation. In those ages when
men acknowledged spiritual perfection to be their object, women were
denounced as the chief obstacle in their way. The constant and
conscious exercise of allurements, which gave women their power,
attacked the weak spots in man's nature, and by doing so added to its
weakness. For all relationships tainted with repression of freedom
must become sources of degeneracy to the strong who impose such
repression.

Balance of power, however, between man and woman was in a measure
established when home wielded a strong enough attraction to make men
accept its obligations. But at last the time has come when the
material ambition of man has assumed such colossal proportions that
home is in danger of losing its centre of gravity for him, and he is
receding farther and farther from its orbit.

The arid zone in the social life is spreading fast. The simple
comforts of home, made precious by the touch of love, are giving way
to luxuries that can only have their full extension in the isolation
of self-centred life. Hotels are being erected on the ruins of homes;
productions are growing more stupendous than creations; and most men
have, for the materials of their happiness and recreation, their dogs
and horses, their pipes, guns, and gambling clubs.

Reactions and rebellions, not being normal in their character, go on
hurting truth until peace is restored. Therefore, when woman refuses
to acknowledge the distinction between her life and that of man, she
does not convince us of its truth, but only proves to us that she is
suffering. All great sufferings indicate some wrong somewhere. In the
present case, the wrong is in woman's lack of freedom in her
relationship with man, which compels her to turn her disabilities into
attractions, and to use untruths as her allies in the battle of life,
while she is suffering from the precariousness of her position.

From the beginning of our society, women have naturally accepted the
training which imparts to their life and to their home a spirit of
harmony. It is their instinct to perform their services in such a
manner that these, through beauty, might be raised from the domain of
slavery to the realm of grace. Women have tried to prove that in the
building up of social life they are artists and not artisans. But all
expressions of beauty lose their truth when compelled to accept the
patronage of the gross and the indifferent. Therefore when necessity
drives women to fashion their lives to the taste of the insensitive or
the sensual, then the whole thing becomes a tragedy of desecration.
Society is full of such tragedies. Many of the laws and social
regulations guiding the relationships of man and woman are relics of
a barbaric age, when the brutal pride of an exclusive possession had
its dominance in human relations, such as those of parents and
children, husbands and wives, masters and servants, teachers and
disciples. The vulgarity of it still persists in the social bond
between the sexes because of the economic helplessness of woman.
Nothing makes us so stupidly mean as the sense of superiority which
the power of the purse confers upon us.

The powers of muscle and of money have opportunities of immediate
satisfaction, but the power of the ideal must have infinite patience.
The man who sells his goods, or fulfils his contract, is cheated if he
fails to realise payment, but he who gives form to some ideal may
never get his due and be fully paid. What I have felt in the women of
India is the consciousness of this ideal—their simple faith in the
sanctity of devotion lighted by love which is held to be divine. True
womanliness is regarded in our country as the saintliness of love. It
is not merely praised there, but literally worshipped; and she who is
gifted with it is called _Devi_, as one revealing in herself Woman,
the Divine. That this has not been a mere metaphor to us is because,
in India, our mind is familiar with the idea of God in an eternal
feminine aspect. Thus the Eastern woman, who is deeply aware in her
heart of the sacredness of her mission, is a constant education to
man. It has to be admitted that there are chances of such an influence
failing to penetrate the callousness of the coarse-minded; but that is
the destiny of all manifestations whose value is not in success or
reward in honour.

Woman has to be ready to suffer. She cannot allow her emotions to be
dulled or polluted, for these are to create her life's atmosphere,
apart from which her world would be dark and dead. This leaves her
heart without any protection of insensibility, at the mercy of the
hurts and insults of life. Women of India, like women everywhere, have
their share of suffering, but it radiates through the ideal, and
becomes, like sunlight, a creative force in their world. Our women
know by heart the legends of the great women of the epic age—Savitri
who by the power of love conquered death, and Sitâ who had no other
reward for her life of sacrifice but the sacred majesty of sorrow.
They know that it is their duty to make this life an image of the life
eternal, and that love's mission truly performed has a spiritual
meaning. It is a religious responsibility for them to live the life
which is their own. For their activity is not for money-making, or
organising power, or intellectually probing the mystery of existence,
but for establishing and maintaining human relationships requiring the
highest moral qualities. It is the consciousness of the spiritual
character of their life's work, which lifts them above the utilitarian
standard of the immediate and the passing, surrounds them with the
dignity of the eternal, and transmutes their suffering and sorrow into
a crown of light.

I must guard myself from the risk of a possible misunderstanding. The
permanent significance of home is not in the narrowness of its
enclosure, but in an eternal moral idea. It represents the truth of
human relationship; it reveals loyalty and love for the personality of
man. Let us take a wider view, in a perspective truer than can be
found in its present conventional associations. With the discovery and
development of agriculture there came a period of settled life in our
history. The nomad ever moved on with his tents and cattle; he
explored space and exploited its contents. The cultivator of land
explored time in its immensity, for he had leisure. Comparatively
secured from the uncertainty of his outer resources, he had the
opportunity to deal with his moral resources in the realm of human
truth. This is why agricultural civilisation, like that of India and
China, is essentially a civilisation of human relationship, of the
adjustment of mutual obligations. It is deep-rooted in the inner life
of man. Its basis is co-operation and not competition. In other words,
its principle is the principle of home, to which all its outer
adventures are subordinated.

In the meanwhile, the nomadic life with its predatory instinct of
exploitation has developed into a great civilisation. It is immensely
proud and strong, killing leisure and pursuing opportunities. It
minimises the claims of personal relationship and is jealously careful
of its unhampered freedom for acquiring wealth and asserting its will
upon others. Its burden is the burden of things, which grows heavier
and more complex every day, disregarding the human and the spiritual.
Its powerful pressure from all sides narrows the limits of home, the
personal region of the human world. Thus, in this region of life,
women are every day hustled out of their shelter for want of
accommodation.

But such a state of things can never have the effect of changing woman
into man. On the contrary, it will lead her to find her place in the
unlimited range of society, and the Guardian Spirit of the personal in
human nature will extend the ministry of woman over all developments
of life. Habituated to deal with the world as a machine, man is
multiplying his materials, banishing away his happiness and
sacrificing love to comfort, which is an illusion. At last the present
age has sent its cry to woman, asking her to come out from her
segregation in order to restore the spiritual supremacy of all that is
human in the world of humanity. She has been aroused to remember that
womanliness is not chiefly decorative. It is like that vital health,
which not only imparts the bloom of beauty to the body, but joy to the
mind and perfection to life.



                         AN EASTERN UNIVERSITY


In the midst of much that is discouraging in the present state of the
world, there is one symptom of vital promise. Asia is awakening. This
great event, if it be but directed along the right lines, is full of
hope, not only for Asia herself, but for the whole world.

On the other hand, it has to be admitted that the relationship of the
West with the East, growing more and more complex and widespread for
over two centuries, far from attaining its true fulfilment, has given
rise to a universal spirit of conflict. The consequent strain and
unrest have profoundly disturbed Asia, and antipathetic forces have
been accumulating for years in the depth of the Eastern mind.

The meeting of the East and the West has remained incomplete, because
the occasions of it have not been disinterested. The political and
commercial adventures carried on by Western races—very often by
force and against the interest and wishes of the countries they have
dealt with—have created a moral alienation, which is deeply injurious
to both parties. The perils threatened by this unnatural relationship
have long been contemptuously ignored by the West. But the blind
confidence of the strong in their apparent invincibility has often led
them, from their dream of security, into terrible surprises of
history.

It is not the fear of danger or loss to one people or another,
however, which is most important. The demoralising influence of the
constant estrangement between the two hemispheres, which affects the
baser passions of man,—pride, greed and hypocrisy on the one hand;
fear, suspiciousness and flattery on the other,—has been developing,
and threatens us with a world-wide spiritual disaster.

The time has come when we must use all our wisdom to understand the
situation, and to control it, with a stronger trust in moral guidance
than in any array of physical forces.

In the beginning of man's history his first social object was to form
a community, to grow into a people. At that early period, individuals
were gathered together within geographical enclosures. But in the
present age, with its facility of communication, geographical barriers
have almost lost their reality, and the great federation of men, which
is waiting either to find its true scope or to break asunder in a
final catastrophe, is not a meeting of individuals, but of various
human races. Now the problem before us is of one single country, which
is this earth, where the races as individuals must find both their
freedom of self-expression and their bond of federation. Mankind must
realise a unity, wider in range, deeper in sentiment, stronger in
power than ever before. Now that the problem is large, we have to
solve it on a bigger scale, to realise the God in man by a larger
faith and to build the temple of our faith on a sure and world-wide
basis.

The first step towards realisation is to create opportunities for
revealing the different peoples to one another. This can never be done
in those fields where the exploiting utilitarian spirit is supreme. We
must find some meeting-ground, where there can be no question of
conflicting interests. One of such places is the University, where we
can work together in a common pursuit of truth, share together our
common heritage, and realise that artists in all parts of the world
have created forms of beauty, scientists discovered secrets of the
universe, philosophers solved the problems of existence, saints made
the truth of the spiritual world organic in their own lives, not
merely for some particular race to which they belonged, but for all
mankind. When the science of meteorology knows the earth's atmosphere
as continuously one, affecting the different parts of the world
differently, but in a harmony of adjustments, it knows and attains
truth. And so, too, we must know that the great mind of man is one,
working through the many differences which are needed to ensure the
full result of its fundamental unity. When we understand this truth in
a disinterested spirit, it teaches us to respect all the differences
in man that are real, yet remain conscious of our oneness; and to know
that perfection of unity is not in uniformity, but in harmony.

This is the problem of the present age. The East, for its own sake and
for the sake of the world, must not remain unrevealed. The deepest
source of all calamities in history is misunderstanding. For where we
do not understand, we can never be just.

Being strongly impressed with the need and the responsibility, which
every individual to-day must realise according to his power, I have
formed the nucleus of an International University in India, as one of
the best means of promoting mutual understanding between the East and
the West. This Institution, according to the plan I have in mind, will
invite students from the West to study the different systems of Indian
philosophy, literature, art and music in their proper environment,
encouraging them to carry on research work in collaboration with the
scholars already engaged in this task.

India has her renaissance. She is preparing to make her contribution
to the world of the future. In the past she produced her great
culture, and in the present age she has an equally important
contribution to make to the culture of the New World which is emerging
from the wreckage of the Old. This is a momentous period of her
history, pregnant with precious possibilities, when any disinterested
offer of co-operation from any part of the West will have an immense
moral value, the memory of which will become brighter as the
regeneration of the East grows in vigour and creative power.

The Western Universities give their students an opportunity to learn
what all the European peoples have contributed to their Western
culture. Thus the intellectual mind of the West has been luminously
revealed to the world. What is needed to complete this illumination is
for the East to collect its own scattered lamps and offer them to the
enlightenment of the world.

There was a time when the great countries of Asia had, each of them,
to nurture its own civilisation apart in comparative seclusion. Now
has come the age of co-ordination and co-operation. The seedlings that
were reared within narrow plots must now be transplanted into the open
fields. They must pass the test of the world-market, if their maximum
value is to be obtained.

But before Asia is in a position to co-operate with the culture of
Europe, she must base her own structure on a synthesis of all the
different cultures which she has. When, taking her stand on such a
culture, she turns toward the West, she will take, with a confident
sense of mental freedom, her own view of truth, from her own
vantage-ground, and open a new vista of thought to the world.
Otherwise, she will allow her priceless inheritance to crumble into
dust, and, trying to replace it clumsily with feeble imitations of the
West, make herself superfluous, cheap and ludicrous. If she thus
loses her individuality and her specific power to exist, will it in
the least help the rest of the world? Will not her terrible bankruptcy
involve also the Western mind? If the whole world grows at last into
an exaggerated West, then such an illimitable parody of the modern age
will die, crushed beneath its own absurdity.

In this belief, it is my desire to extend by degrees the scope of this
University on simple lines, until it comprehends the whole range of
Eastern cultures—the Aryan, Semitic, Mongolian and others. Its object
will be to reveal the Eastern mind to the world.

Of one thing I felt certain during my travels in Europe, that a
genuine interest has been roused there in the philosophy and the arts
of the East, from which the Western mind seeks fresh inspiration of
truth and beauty. Once the East had her reputation of fabulous wealth,
and the seekers were attracted from across the sea. Since then, the
shrine of wealth has changed its site. But the East is famed also for
her storage of wisdom, harvested by her patriarchs from long
successive ages of spiritual endeavour. And when, as now, in the midst
of the pursuit of power and wealth, there rises the cry of privation
from the famished spirit of man, an opportunity is offered to the East
to offer her store to those who need it.

Once upon a time we were in possession of such a thing as our own mind
in India. It was living. It thought, it felt, it expressed itself. It
was receptive as well as productive. That this mind could be of any
use in the process, or in the end, of our education was overlooked by
our modern educational dispensation. We are provided with buildings
and books and other magnificent burdens calculated to suppress our
mind. The latter was treated like a library-shelf solidly made of
wood, to be loaded with leather-bound volumes of second-hand
information. In consequence, it has lost its own colour and character,
and has borrowed polish from the carpenter's shop. All this has cost
us money, and also our finer ideas, while our intellectual vacancy has
been crammed with what is described in official reports as Education.
In fact, we have bought our spectacles at the expense of our eyesight.

In India our goddess of learning is _Saraswati_. My audience in the
West, I am sure, will be glad to know that her complexion is white.
But the signal fact is that she is living and she is a woman, and her
seat is on a lotus-flower. The symbolic meaning of this is, that she
dwells in the centre of life and the heart of all existence, which
opens itself in beauty to the light of heaven.

The Western education which we have chanced to know is impersonal. Its
complexion is also white, but it is the whiteness of the white-washed
class-room walls. It dwells in the cold-storage compartments of
lessons and the ice-packed minds of the schoolmasters. The effect
which it had on my mind when, as a boy, I was compelled to go to
school, I have described elsewhere. My feeling was very much the same
as a tree might have, which was not allowed to live its full life, but
was cut down to be made into packing-cases.

The introduction of this education was not a part of the solemn
marriage ceremony which was to unite the minds of the East and West in
mutual understanding. It represented an artificial method of training
specially calculated to produce the carriers of the white man's
burden. This want of ideals still clings to our education system,
though our Universities have latterly burdened their syllabus with a
greater number of subjects than before. But it is only like adding to
the bags of wheat the bullock carries to market; it does not make the
bullock any better off.

Mind, when long deprived of its natural food of truth and freedom of
growth, develops an unnatural craving for success; and our students
have fallen victims to the mania for success in examinations. Success
consists in obtaining the largest number of marks with the strictest
economy of knowledge. It is a deliberate cultivation of disloyalty to
truth, of intellectual dishonesty, of a foolish imposition by which
the mind is encouraged to rob itself. But as we are by means of it
made to forget the existence of mind, we are supremely happy at the
result. We pass examinations, and shrivel up into clerks, lawyers and
police inspectors, and we die young.

Universities should never be made into mechanical organisations for
collecting and distributing knowledge. Through them the people should
offer their intellectual hospitality, their wealth of mind to others,
and earn their proud right in return to receive gifts from the rest of
the world. But in the whole length and breadth of India there is not a
single University established in the modern time where a foreign or
an Indian student can properly be acquainted with the best products
of the Indian mind. For that we have to cross the sea, and knock at
the doors of France and Germany. Educational institutions in our
country are India's alms-bowl of knowledge; they lower our
intellectual self-respect; they encourage us to make a foolish display
of decorations composed of borrowed feathers.

This it was that led me to found a school in Bengal, in face of many
difficulties and discouragements, and in spite of my own vocation as a
poet, who finds his true inspiration only when he forgets that he is a
schoolmaster. It is my hope that in this school a nucleus has been
formed, round which an indigenous University of our own land will find
its natural growth—a University which will help India's mind to
concentrate and to be fully conscious of itself; free to seek the
truth and make this truth its own wherever found, to judge by its own
standard, give expression to its own creative genius, and offer its
wisdom to the guests who come from other parts of the world.

Man's intellect has a natural pride in its own aristocracy, which is
the pride of its culture. Culture only acknowledges the excellence
whose criticism is in its inner perfection, not in any external
success. When this pride succumbs to some compulsion of necessity or
lure of material advantage, it brings humiliation to the intellectual
man. Modern India, through her very education, has been made to suffer
this humiliation. Once she herself provided her children with a
culture which was the product of her own ages of thought and creation.
But it has been thrust aside, and we are made to tread the mill of
passing examinations, not for learning anything, but for notifying
that we are qualified for employments under organisations conducted in
English. Our educated community is not a cultured community, but a
community of qualified candidates. Meanwhile the proportion of
possible employments to the number of claimants has gradually been
growing narrower, and the consequent disaffection has been widespread.
At last the very authorities who are responsible for this are blaming
their victims. Such is the perversity of human nature. It bears its
worst grudge against those it has injured.

It is as if some tribe which had the primitive habit of decorating its
tribal members with birds' plumage were some day to hold these very
birds guilty of the crime of being extinct. There are belated
attempts on the part of our governors to read us pious homilies about
disinterested love of learning, while the old machinery goes on
working, whose product is not education but certificates. It is good
to remind the fettered bird that its wings are for soaring; but it is
better to cut the chain which is holding it to its perch. The most
pathetic feature of the tragedy is that the bird itself has learnt to
use its chain for its ornament, simply because the chain jingles in
fairly respectable English.

In the Bengali language there is a modern maxim which can be
translated, "He who learns to read and write rides in a carriage and
pair." In English there is a similar proverb, "Knowledge is power." It
is an offer of a prospective bribe to the student, a promise of an
ulterior reward which is more important than knowledge itself.
Temptations, held before us as inducements to be good or to pursue
uncongenial paths, are most often flimsy lies or half-truths, such as
the oft-quoted maxim of respectable piety, "Honesty is the best
policy," at which politicians all over the world seem to laugh in
their sleeves. But unfortunately, education conducted under a special
providence of purposefulness, of eating the fruit of knowledge from
the wrong end, _does_ lead one to that special paradise on earth, the
daily rides in one's own carriage and pair. And the West, I have heard
from authentic sources, is aspiring in its education after that
special cultivation of worldliness.

Where society is comparatively simple and obstructions are not too
numerous, we can clearly see how the life-process guides education in
its vital purpose. The system of folk-education, which is indigenous
to India, but is dying out, was one with the people's life. It flowed
naturally through the social channels and made its way everywhere. It
is a system of widespread irrigation of culture. Its teachers,
specially trained men, are in constant requisition, and find crowded
meetings in our villages, where they repeat the best thoughts and
express the ideals of the land in the most effective form. The mode of
instruction includes the recitation of epics, expounding of the
scriptures, reading from the Puranas, which are the classical records
of old history, performance of plays founded upon the early myths and
legends, dramatic narration of the lives of ancient heroes, and the
singing in chorus of songs from the old religious literature.
Evidently, according to this system, the best function of education
is to enable us to realise that to live as a man is great, requiring
profound philosophy for its ideal, poetry for its expression, and
heroism in its conduct. Owing to this vital method of culture the
common people of India, though technically illiterate, have been made
conscious of the sanctity of social relationships, entailing constant
sacrifice and self-control, urged and supported by ideals collectively
expressed in one word, _Dharma_.

Such a system of education may sound too simple for the complexities
of modern life. But the fundamental principle of social life in its
different stages of development remains the same; and in no
circumstance can the truth be ignored that all human complexities must
harmonise in organic unity with life, failing which there will be
endless conflict. Most things in the civilised world occupy more than
their legitimate space. Much of their burden is needless. By bearing
this burden civilised man may be showing great strength, but he
displays little skill. To the gods, viewing this from on high, it must
seem like the flounderings of a giant who has got out of his depth and
knows not how to swim.

The main source of all forms of voluntary slavery is the desire of
gain. It is difficult to fight against this when modern civilisation
is tainted with such a universal contamination of avarice. I have
realised it myself in the little boys of my own school. For the first
few years there is no trouble. But as soon as the upper class is
reached, their worldly wisdom—the malady of the aged—begins to
assert itself. They rebelliously insist that they must no longer
learn, but rather pass examinations. Professions in the modern age are
more numerous and lucrative than ever before. They need specialisation
of training and knowledge, tempting education to yield its spiritual
freedom to the claims of utilitarian ambitions. But man's deeper
nature is hurt; his smothered life seeks to be liberated from the
suffocating folds and sensual ties of prosperity. And this is why we
find almost everywhere in the world a growing dissatisfaction with the
prevalent system of teaching, which betrays the encroachment of
senility and worldly prudence over pure intellect.

In India, also, a vague feeling of discontent has given rise to
numerous attempts at establishing national schools and colleges. But,
unfortunately, our very education has been successful in depriving us
of our real initiative and our courage of thought. The training we get
in our schools has the constant implication in it that it is not for
us to produce but to borrow. And we are casting about to borrow our
educational plans from European institutions. The trampled plants of
Indian corn are dreaming of recouping their harvest from the
neighbouring wheat fields. To change the figure, we forget that, for
proficiency in walking, it is better to train the muscles of our own
legs than to strut upon wooden ones of foreign make, although they
clatter and cause more surprise at our skill in using them than if
they were living and real.

But when we go to borrow help from a foreign neighbourhood we are apt
to overlook the real source of help behind all that is external and
apparent. Had the deep-water fishes happened to produce a scientist
who chose the jumping of a monkey for his research work, I am sure he
would give most of the credit to the branches of the trees and very
little to the monkey itself. In a foreign University we see the
branching wildernesses of its buildings, furniture, regulations, and
syllabus, but the monkey, which is a difficult creature to catch and
more difficult to manufacture, we are likely to treat as a mere
accident of minor importance. It is convenient for us to overlook the
fact that among the Europeans the living spirit of the University is
widely spread in their society, their parliament, their literature,
and the numerous activities of their corporate life. In all these
functions they are in perpetual touch with the great personality of
the land which is creative and heroic in its constant acts of
self-expression and self-sacrifice. They have their thoughts published
in their books as well as through the medium of living men who think
those thoughts, and who criticise, compare and disseminate them. Some
at least of the drawbacks of their academic education are redeemed by
the living energy of the intellectual personality pervading their
social organism. It is like the stagnant reservoir of water which
finds its purification in the showers of rain to which it keeps itself
open. But, to our misfortune, we have in India all the furniture of
the European University except the human teacher. We have, instead,
mere purveyors of book-lore in whom the paper god of the bookshop has
been made vocal.

A most important truth, which we are apt to forget, is that a teacher
can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can
never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame.
The teacher who has come to the end of his subject, who has no living
traffic with his knowledge, but merely repeats his lessons to his
students, can only load their minds; he cannot quicken them. Truth not
only must inform but inspire. If the inspiration dies out, and the
information only accumulates, then truth loses its infinity. The
greater part of our learning in the schools has been wasted because,
for most of our teachers, their subjects are like dead specimens of
once living things, with which they have a learned acquaintance, but
no communication of life and love.

The educational institution, therefore, which I have in mind has
primarily for its object the constant pursuit of truth, from which the
imparting of truth naturally follows. It must not be a dead cage in
which living minds are fed with food artificially prepared. It should
be an open house, in which students and teachers are at one. They must
live their complete life together, dominated by a common aspiration
for truth and a need of sharing all the delights of culture. In former
days the great master-craftsmen had students in their workshops where
they co-operated in shaping things to perfection. That was the place
where knowledge could become living—that knowledge which not only has
its substance and law, but its atmosphere subtly informed by a
creative personality. For intellectual knowledge also has its aspect
of creative art, in which the man who explores truth expresses
something which is human in him—his enthusiasm, his courage, his
sacrifice, his honesty, and his skill. In merely academical teaching
we find subjects, but not the man who pursues the subjects; therefore
the vital part of education remains incomplete.

For our Universities we must claim, not labelled packages of truth and
authorised agents to distribute them, but truth in its living
association with her lovers and seekers and discoverers. Also we must
know that the concentration of the mind-forces scattered throughout
the country is the most important mission of a University, which, like
the nucleus of a living cell, should be the centre of the intellectual
life of the people.

The bringing about of an intellectual unity in India is, I am told,
difficult to the verge of impossibility owing to the fact that India
has so many different languages. Such a statement is as unreasonable
as to say that man, because he has a diversity of limbs, should find
it impossible to realise life's unity in himself, and that only an
earthworm composed of a tail and nothing else could truly know that it
had a body.

Let us admit that India is not like any one of the great countries of
Europe, which has its own separate language; but is rather like Europe
herself, branching out into different peoples with many different
languages. And yet Europe has a common civilisation, with an
intellectual unity which is not based upon uniformity of language. It
is true that in the earlier stages of her culture the whole of Europe
had Latin for her learned tongue. That was in her intellectual budding
time, when all her petals of self-expression were closed in one point.
But the perfection of her mental unfolding was not represented by the
singularity of her literary vehicle. When the great European countries
found their individual languages, then only the true federation of
cultures became possible in the West, and the very differences of the
channels made the commerce of ideas in Europe so richly copious and so
variedly active. We can well imagine what the loss to European
civilisation would be if France, Italy and Germany, and England
herself, had not through their separate agencies contributed to the
common coffer their individual earnings.

There was a time with us when India had her common language of culture
in Sanskrit. But, for the complete commerce of her thought, she
required that all her vernaculars should attain their perfect powers,
through which her different peoples might manifest their
idiosyncrasies; and this could never be done through a foreign tongue.

In the United States, in Canada and other British Colonies, the
language of the people is English. It has a great literature which had
its birth and growth in the history of the British Islands. But when
this language, with all its products and acquisitions, matured by ages
on its own mother soil, is carried into foreign lands, which have
their own separate history and their own life-growth, it must
constantly hamper the indigenous growth of culture and destroy
individuality of judgement and the perfect freedom of self-expression.
The inherited wealth of the English language, with all its splendour,
becomes an impediment when taken into different surroundings, just as
when lungs are given to the whale in the sea. If such is the case even
with races whose grandmother-tongue naturally continues to be their
own mother-tongue, one can imagine what sterility it means for a
people which accepts, for its vehicle of culture, an altogether
foreign language. A language is not like an umbrella or an overcoat,
that can be borrowed by unconscious or deliberate mistake; it is like
the living skin itself. If the body of a draught-horse enters into the
skin of a race-horse, it will be safe to wager that such an anomaly
will never win a race, and will fail even to drag a cart. Have we not
watched some modern Japanese artists imitating European art? The
imitation may sometimes produce clever results; but such cleverness
has only the perfection of artificial flowers which never bear fruit.

All great countries have their vital centres for intellectual life,
where a high standard of learning is maintained, where the minds of
the people are naturally attracted, where they find their genial
atmosphere, in which to prove their worth and to contribute their
share to the country's culture. Thus they kindle, on the common altar
of the land, that great sacrificial fire which can radiate the sacred
light of wisdom abroad.

Athens was such a centre in Greece, Rome in Italy; and Paris is such
to-day in France. Benares has been and still continues to be the
centre of our Sanskrit culture. But Sanskrit learning does not exhaust
all the elements of culture that exist in modern India.

If we were to take for granted, what some people maintain, that
Western culture is the only source of light for our mind, then it
would be like depending for daybreak upon some star, which is the sun
of a far distant sphere. The star may give us light, but not the day;
it may give us direction in our voyage of exploration, but it can
never open the full view of truth before our eyes. In fact, we can
never use this cold starlight for stirring the sap in our branches,
and giving colour and bloom to our life. This is the reason why
European education has become for India mere school lessons and no
culture; a box of matches, good for the small uses of illumination,
but not the light of morning, in which the use and beauty, and all the
subtle mysteries of life are blended in one.

Let me say clearly that I have no distrust of any culture because of
its foreign character. On the contrary, I believe that the shock of
such extraneous forces is necessary for the vitality of our
intellectual nature. It is admitted that much of the spirit of
Christianity runs counter, not only to the classical culture of
Europe, but to the European temperament altogether. And yet this alien
movement of ideas, constantly running against the natural mental
current of Europe, has been a most important factor in strengthening
and enriching her civilisation, on account of the sharp antagonism of
its intellectual direction. In fact, the European vernaculars first
woke up to life and fruitful vigour when they felt the impact of this
foreign thought-power with all its oriental forms and affinities. The
same thing is happening in India. The European culture has come to us,
not only with its knowledge, but with its velocity.

Then, again, let us admit that modern Science is Europe's great gift
to humanity for all time to come. We, in India, must claim it from her
hands, and gratefully accept it in order to be saved from the curse of
futility by lagging behind. We shall fail to reap the harvest of the
present age if we delay.

What I object to is the artificial arrangement by which foreign
education tends to occupy all the space of our national mind, and thus
kills, or hampers, the great opportunity for the creation of a new
thought-power by a new combination of truths. It is this which makes
me urge that all the elements in our own culture have to be
strengthened, not to resist the Western culture, but truly to accept
and assimilate it; to use it for our sustenance, not as our burden; to
get mastery over this culture, and not to live on its outskirts as the
hewers of texts and drawers of book-learning.

The main river in Indian culture has flowed in four streams,—the
Vedic, the Puranic, the Buddhist, and the Jain. It has its source in
the heights of the Indian consciousness. But a river, belonging to a
country, is not fed by its own waters alone. The Tibetan Brahmaputra
is a tributary to the Indian Ganges. Contributions have similarly
found their way to India's original culture. The Muhammadan, for
example, has repeatedly come into India from outside, laden with his
own stores of knowledge and feeling and his wonderful religious
democracy, bringing freshet after freshet to swell the current. To our
music, our architecture, our pictorial art, our literature, the
Muhammadans have made their permanent and precious contribution. Those
who have studied the lives and writings of our medieval saints, and
all the great religious movements that sprang up in the time of the
Muhammadan rule, know how deep is our debt to this foreign current
that has so intimately mingled with our life.

So, in our centre of Indian learning, we must provide for the
co-ordinate study of all these different cultures,—the Vedic, the
Puranic, the Buddhist, the Jain, the Islamic, the Sikh and the
Zoroastrian. The Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan will also have to be
added; for, in the past, India did not remain isolated within her own
boundaries. Therefore, in order to learn what she was, in her relation
to the whole continent of Asia, these cultures too must be studied.
Side by side with them must finally be placed the Western culture. For
only then shall we be able to assimilate this last contribution to our
common stock. A river flowing within banks is truly our own, and it
can contain its due tributaries; but our relations with a flood can
only prove disastrous.

There are some who are exclusively modern, who believe that the past
is the bankrupt time, leaving no assets for us, but only a legacy of
debts. They refuse to believe that the army which is marching forward
can be fed from the rear. It is well to remind such persons that the
great ages of renaissance in history were those when man suddenly
discovered the seeds of thought in the granary of the past.

The unfortunate people who have lost the harvest of their past have
lost their present age. They have missed their seed for cultivation,
and go begging for their bare livelihood. We must not imagine that we
are one of these disinherited peoples of the world. The time has come
for us to break open the treasure-trove of our ancestors, and use it
for our commerce of life. Let us, with its help, make our future our
own, and not continue our existence as the eternal rag-pickers in
other people's dustbins.

So far I have dwelt only upon the intellectual aspect of Education.
For, even in the West, it is the intellectual training which receives
almost exclusive emphasis. The Western universities have not yet truly
recognised that fulness of expression is fulness of life. And a large
part of man can never find its expression in the mere language of
words. It must therefore seek for its other languages,—lines and
colours, sounds and movements. Through our mastery of these we not
only make our whole nature articulate, but also understand man in all
his attempts to reveal his innermost being in every age and clime. The
great use of Education is not merely to collect facts, but to know
man and to make oneself known to man. It is the duty of every human
being to master, at least to some extent, not only the language of
intellect, but also that personality which is the language of Art. It
is a great world of reality for man,—vast and profound,—this growing
world of his own creative nature. This is the world of Art. To be
brought up in ignorance of it is to be deprived of the knowledge and
use of that great inheritance of humanity, which has been growing and
waiting for every one of us from the beginning of our history. It is
to remain deaf to the eternal voice of Man, that speaks to all men the
messages that are beyond speech. From the educational point of view we
know Europe where it is scientific, or at best literary. So our notion
of its modern culture is limited within the boundary lines of grammar
and the laboratory. We almost completely ignore the æsthetic life of
man, leaving it uncultivated, allowing weeds to grow there. Our
newspapers are prolific, our meeting-places are vociferous; and in
them we wear to shreds the things we have borrowed from our English
teachers. We make the air dismal and damp with the tears of our
grievances. But where are our arts, which, like the outbreak of
spring flowers, are the spontaneous overflow of our deeper nature and
spiritual magnificence?

Through this great deficiency of our modern education, we are
condemned to carry to the end a dead load of dumb wisdom. Like
miserable outcasts, we are deprived of our place in the festival of
culture, and wait at the outer court, where the colours are not for
us, nor the forms of delight, nor the songs. Ours is the education of
a prison-house, with hard labour and with a drab dress cut to the
limits of minimum decency and necessity. We are made to forget that
the perfection of colour and form and expression belongs to the
perfection of vitality,—that the joy of life is only the other side
of the strength of life. The timber merchant may think that the
flowers and foliage are mere frivolous decorations of a tree; but if
these are suppressed, he will know to his cost that the timber too
will fail.

During the Moghal period, music and art in India found a great impetus
from the rulers, because their whole life—not merely their official
life—was lived in this land; and it is the wholeness of life from
which originates Art. But our English teachers are birds of passage;
they cackle to us, but do not sing,—their true heart is not in the
land of their exile.

Constriction of life, owing to this narrowness of culture, must no
longer be encouraged. In the centre of Indian culture which I am
proposing, music and art must have their prominent seats of honour,
and not be given merely a tolerant nod of recognition. The different
systems of music and different schools of art which lie scattered in
the different ages and provinces of India, and in the different strata
of society, and also those belonging to the other great countries of
Asia, which had communication with India, have to be brought there
together and studied.

I have already hinted that Education should not be dragged out of its
native element, the life-current of the people. Economic life covers
the whole width of the fundamental basis of society, because its
necessities are the simplest and the most universal. Educational
institutions, in order to obtain their fulness of truth, must have
close association with this economic life. The highest mission of
education is to help us to realise the inner principle of the unity of
all knowledge and all the activities of our social and spiritual
being. Society in its early stage was held together by its economic
co-operation, when all its members felt in unison a natural interest
in their right to live. Civilisation could never have been started at
all if such was not the case. And civilisation will fall to pieces if
it never again realises the spirit of mutual help and the common
sharing of benefits in the elemental necessaries of life. The idea of
such economic co-operation should be made the basis of our University.
It must not only instruct, but live; not only think, but produce.

Our ancient _tapovanas_, or forest schools, which were our natural
universities, were not shut off from the daily life of the people.
Masters and students gathered fruit and fuel, and took their cattle
out to graze, supporting themselves by the work of their own hands.
Spiritual education was a part of the spiritual life itself, which
comprehended all life. Our centre of culture should not only be the
centre of the intellectual life of India, but the centre of her
economic life also. It must co-operate with the villages round it,
cultivate land, breed cattle, spin cloths, press oil from oil-seeds;
it must produce all the necessaries, devising the best means, using
the best materials, and calling science to its aid. Its very existence
should depend upon the success of its industrial activities carried
out on the co-operative principle, which will unite the teachers and
students and villagers of the neighbourhood in a living and active
bond of necessity. This will give us also a practical industrial
training, whose motive force is not the greed of profit.

Before I conclude my paper, a delicate question remains to be
considered. What must be the religious ideal that is to rule our
centre of Indian culture? The one abiding ideal in the religious life
of India has been _Mukti_, the deliverance of man's soul from the grip
of self, its communion with the Infinite Soul through its union in
_ânanda_ with the universe. This religion of spiritual harmony is not
a theological doctrine to be taught, as a subject in the class, for
half an hour each day. It is the spiritual truth and beauty of our
attitude towards our surroundings, our conscious relationship with the
Infinite, and the lasting power of the Eternal in the passing moments
of our life. Such a religious ideal can only be made possible by
making provision for students to live in intimate touch with nature,
daily to grow in an atmosphere of service offered to all creatures,
tending trees, feeding birds and animals, learning to feel the immense
mystery of the soil and water and air.

Along with this, there should be some common sharing of life with the
tillers of the soil and the humble workers in the neighbouring
villages; studying their crafts, inviting them to the feasts, joining
them in works of co-operation for communal welfare; and in our
intercourse we should be guided, not by moral maxims or the
condescension of social superiority, but by natural sympathy of life
for life, and by the sheer necessity of love's sacrifice for its own
sake. In such an atmosphere students would learn to understand that
humanity is a divine harp of many strings, waiting for its one grand
music. Those who realise this unity are made ready for the pilgrimage
through the night of suffering, and along the path of sacrifice, to
the great meeting of Man in the future, for which the call comes to us
across the darkness.

Life, in such a centre, should be simple and clean. We should never
believe that simplicity of life might make us unsuited to the
requirements of the society of our time. It is the simplicity of the
tuning-fork, which is needed all the more because of the intricacy of
strings in the instrument. In the morning of our career our nature
needs the pure and the perfect note of a spiritual ideal in order to
fit us for the complications of our later years.

In other words, this institution should be a perpetual creation by the
co-operative enthusiasm of teachers and students, growing with the
growth of their soul; a world in itself, self-sustaining, independent,
rich with ever-renewing life, radiating life across space and time,
attracting and maintaining round it a planetary system of dependent
bodies. Its aim should lie in imparting life-breath to the complete
man, who is intellectual as well as economic, bound by social bonds,
but aspiring towards spiritual freedom and final perfection.


                                THE END

  _Printed in Great Britain by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.



                        BY RABINDRANATH TAGORE


=GITANJALI. (Song Offerings.)= Translated by the Author. With an
Introduction by W. B. YEATS, and a Portrait by W. ROTHENSTEIN. Crown
8vo. 5s. net.

_ATHENÆUM._—"Mr. Tagore's translations are of trance-like beauty....
The expanding sentiment of some of the poems wins, even through the
alien medium of our English prose, a rhythm which in its strength and
melody might recall familiar passages in the Psalms or Solomon's
Song."


=FRUIT-GATHERING. A Sequel to "Gitanjali."= Crown 8vo. 5s. net.

_ATHENÆUM._—"The eighty-six pieces that fill this volume are pure
jets of lyric feeling, aphorisms expressed in moving symbols, or fully
developed parables and allegories ... several are as perfect in form
as they are beautiful and poignant in content."


=GITANJALI AND FRUIT-GATHERING.=

With Illustrations in colour and half-tone by NANDALAL BOSE,
SURENDRANATH KAR, ABANINDRANATH TAGORE, and NOBINDRANATH TAGORE. Crown
8vo. 10s. net.


=THE GARDENER. Lyrics of Love and Life.= Translated by the Author. With
Portrait. Crown 8vo. 5s. net.

_DAILY MAIL._—"Flowers as fresh as sunrise.... One cannot tell what
they have lost in the translation, but as they stand they are of
extreme beauty.... They are simple, exalted, fragrant—episodes and
incidents of every day transposed to faery."


=THE CRESCENT MOON. Child-Poems.= Translated by the Author. With 8
Illustrations in Colour. Pott 4to. 5s. net.

_NATION._—"A vision of childhood which is only paralleled in our
literature by the work of William Blake."


=STRAY BIRDS.= Poems. With a Frontispiece by WILLY POGÁNY. Crown 8vo.
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_SCOTSMAN._—"The richness of this volume in thought and in imagery,
in tracing analogies and in discovering apologues, is such as to yield
pleasure and profit to the most fertile and cultured minds."


=LOVER'S GIFT AND CROSSING.= Crown 8vo. 5s. net.

_ATHENÆUM._—"The poems often touch extreme heights of passion and
sublimity, and the diction has a beauty and a music that few have
attained in this particular medium."


=THE FUGITIVE.= Crown 8vo. 7s. 6d. net.

_SUNDAY TIMES._—"In 'The Fugitive' the lovers of Tagore will not be
disappointed. He has all his powers still undimmed. Indeed, the poet
never, in our judgment, has surpassed this work."


=CHITRA. A Play.= Translated by the Author. Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d. net.

_OBSERVER._—"An allegory of love's meaning, clear as a pool in the
sunshine. It was written, we are told, twenty-five years ago.... Even
then Mr. Tagore had that calm intensity of vision which we have all
come to love in his later work. We find in him that for which Arjuna
groped in his love, 'that ultimate _you_, that bare simplicity of
truth,' and never more than in this little work of beauty, 'Chitra.'"


=THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER.= =A Play.= Translated by KSHITISH CHANDRA
SEN. Crown 8vo. 6s. net.

_PALL MALL GAZETTE._—"Altogether, the play is a beautiful piece of
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=THE POST OFFICE. A Play.= Translated by DEVABRATA MUKERJEA. Crown 8vo.
3s. 6d. net.

_MANCHESTER GUARDIAN._—"'The Post Office' is a delicate, wistful
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=THE CYCLE OF SPRING. A Play.= Crown 8vo. 3s. 6d. net.

_MANCHESTER GUARDIAN._—"The whole little drama is a spring-gift such
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=SACRIFICE and other Plays.= Crown 8vo. 6s. net.

_SCOTSMAN._—"All the pieces have a rare beauty of their own."


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_SATURDAY REVIEW._—"In these days of indiscriminating praise, it is
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=THE WRECK. A Novel.= Crown 8vo. 8s. 6d. net.

_MORNING POST._—"The story cannot fail to interest and delight."


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_OXFORD MAGAZINE._—"Full of pregnant pictures of Indian life and
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=HUNGRY STONES and other Stories.= Crown 8vo. 6s. net.

_DAILY TELEGRAPH._—"Contains descriptive passages of rare vigour and
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=SĀDHANĀ: The Realisation of Life. Lectures.= Extra Crown 8vo. 6s.
net.

=NATIONALISM.= Extra Crown 8vo. 6s. net.

=PERSONALITY. Lectures delivered in America.= Illustrated. Crown 8vo.
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=CREATIVE UNITY. Essays.= Extra Crown 8vo.

=MY REMINISCENCES.= Illustrated. Extra Crown 8vo. 7s. 6d. net.

=GLIMPSES OF BENGAL. Selected from the Letters of Rabindranath Tagore,
1885 to 1895.= Crown 8vo. 7s. 6d. net.

=ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KABIR.= Translated by RABINDRANATH TAGORE,
assisted by EVELYN UNDERHILL. Crown 8vo. 5s. net.

=RABINDRANATH TAGORE.= A Biographical Study. By ERNEST RHYS.
Illustrated. Extra Crown 8vo. 10s. 6d. net.

=SIX PORTRAITS OF RABINDRANATH TAGORE.= By W. ROTHENSTEIN. Reproduced in
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=THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MAHARSHI DEVENDRANATH TAGORE= (Father of
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DEVI. With Introduction by EVELYN UNDERHILL, and Portrait. Extra Crown
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=THE PHILOSOPHY OF RABINDRANATH TAGORE.= By Prof. S. RADHAKRISHNAN. 8vo.
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=SHANTINIKETAN: The Bolpur School of Rabindranath Tagore.= By W. W.
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                    LONDON: MACMILLAN AND CO., LTD.



                          TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES

Obvious typographic errors have been corrected. The page numbers
in the Table of Contents have been adjusted to match the actual page
numbers.





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